It would be tl;dr for a blogpost to explain the originality and contributions that Alan Kay has made to interaction design. We’re fortunate that he delivered an extended real-time lecture by video on October 9, 2017, to grad and undergrad students, hosted by the Interaction Design Evolution course, a.k.a. Studio III in the MFA Interaction Design program at CCS.
Alan has been deeply influencing interaction design from the time he conceived what we now call the iPad—though his concept went much further and was explicitly a learning tool. And he named it more descriptively: the Dynabook (1968-1972). He had a relationship with Steve Jobs and famously said that he thought the original Mac from 1984 was “the first personal computer good enough to be criticized.” Wait… what? Yup.
Alan has always displayed such originality and penetrating capacity for critique. His TeD talk from 2007 is one of many great examples. This very recent profile on him in FASTCOMPANY, arriving at the time of the announcement of the iPhone X, is titled “The Father Of Mobile Computing Is Not Impressed.” Yup. In that deep interview he makes the same point intended by the CCS MFA Interaction Design Evolution course: Not knowing the history of IxD means you won’t be as good a designer of its future…
Here’s what he says in FASTCOMPANY about Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web—Berners-Lee was a physicist and didn’t know the work of Doug Englebart, so Alan says: “And so, [Berners-Lee’s] conception of the World Wide Web was infinitely tinier and weaker and terrible.” Yikes. Fabulous. And don’t miss his comment that HTML5 is like “reinventing the flat tire.”