Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Technology And Transformation: Futurists Alan Kay And Vishal Sikka

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 26, 2013

Alan Kay

This evening (March 26) The Churchill Club hosts Alan Kay (above), formerly of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Apple, and Hewlett-Packard in conversation with  SAP's technology and innovation leader Vishal Sikka,  hosted by analyst Paul Saffo.

Many people are familiar with Mr Kay's quotes such as this one from 1971: 

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

He is sometimes called the "Father of Personal Computing." Mr. Kay predicted the "tablet" style computer decades ago,  which he called a "Dynabook." He is a winner of the Turing Award, inventor of the Smalltalk computer language, and a pioneer of graphical user interfaces and object oriented programming.

He's a vocal critic of modern software applications, arguing that software developers are lazy and produce poor tools, which results in bloated, highly inefficient software. It's only the continuing advances in microprocessors and semiconductor technology through Moore's Law that provide software developers with ever more powerful and scalable platforms. 

 Mr. Sikka leads technology and innovation at SAP, the world's largest business software company. It will be interesting to see if the subject of bloated software comes up in their conversation.

Mr. Sikka has developed his own philosophies around software development, and a concept he calls "Timeless Software" described as "software that does not cause disruption to the user as technology landscapes evolve." SAP has adopted this approach.

He is a long-time admirer of Mr. Kay and contributed an essay in tribute to him on his 70th birthday.

There's more on Alan Kay and his ideas on software in this excellent article by Demis Bellot:

The Deep Insights of Alan Kay - mythz blog

... a little unknown nugget of what the primary motivation behind the amazing research teams Alan was apart of, whose pioneering efforts in advancing computer-science started about 40 years ago with the goal:

"...to help children -- and thus humanity -- to learn and absorb 'science in the large'".

Event details: Churchill Club: Technology and Transformation: Vishal Sikka and Alan Kay, in Conversation with Paul Saffo

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