Hewlett-Packard Co has hired personal computing visionary Alan Kay as a senior fellow at its HP Labs research division. Kay is best known for his involvement in the creation of windowing systems, the Smalltalk programming language, and for defining the concept of mobile computing.
It is not clear exactly what work Kay will be involved in at Palo Alto, California-based HP, although it appears that he will able to pursue his goal of improving the end-user experience of computing. The appointment of Kay might enable HP to live up to its Invent branding. He is famously quoted as saying: Don’t worry about what anybody else is going to do… The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
Throughout his career Kay has been involved in some of the key concepts in modern computing. In the late 1960s, he was involved in the creation of ARPAnet, the forerunner to the internet. In 1968, he described the Dynabook, a flat-panel laptop wireless computer with keyboard, stylus and handwriting recognition. Anyone about to rush out and buy one of the recently released Tablet PCs should recognize this description.
Following that Kay went on to co-found the hugely influential Xerox PARC research center, where he co-developed Smalltalk, the object-oriented programming language, and also helped to define the graphical user interface and windowing system. Kay has also served as chief scientist at Atari and as a research fellow at Apple Computer Corp and Disney’s Imagineering Unit.
In recent years, Kay has been involved with the development of a next-generation operating system called Croquet, and an image-based authoring environment called Squeak. Both are open source projects in the early stages of development at ViewPoints Research Institute, a non-profit organization co-founded by Kay.
Squeak is a Smalltalk-80 based implementation that is designed to improve the way in which children learn and play through software. Squeak is also at the heart of Croquet, a three-dimensional collaborative multi-platform operating system that uses peer-to-peer technology to create an ad-hoc multi-user network. Kay is expected to continue his association with these projects while at HP.