It was Steve Jobs' visit to Kay's lab at Xerox PARC that led to the Lisa, the Mac and all that followed. Kay's aphorism that "people who are really serious about software should make their own hardware" -- an aphorism that Jobs often quoted -- became one of Apple's core principles, one that distinguishes it from all its competitors.
Yet it is clear from his interview with computer historian David Greelish -- excerpted Tuesday on Time.com by Harry McCracken -- that Kay is profoundly disappointed with what Apple has done with his powerful ideas.
On failing to deliver on his dream of "symmetric authoring and consuming":
Isn't it crystal clear that this last and most important service is quite lacking in today's computing for the general public? Apple with the iPad and iPhone goes even further and does not allow children to download an Etoy made by another child somewhere in the world. This could not be farther from the original intentions of the entire ARPA-IPTO/PARC community in the '60s and '70s.
Apple's reasons for this are mostly bogus, and to the extent that security is an issue, what is insecure are the OSes supplied by the vendors
On the Newton, the short-lived predecessor of the iPhone that was created while he was an Apple Fellow under John Sculley:
I had many grazing encounters with the Newton (this was a very complicated project and politics on all fronts). Back in the Dynabook design days I had determined pretty carefully that, while you could do a very good character recognizer (the GRAIL project at RAND had one in the '60s), you still needed a keyboard. Apple Marketing did not want a keyboard because they feared it would then compete with the Mac. Then there was the siren's song of trying to recognize handwriting rather than printing — and they plunged (this was a terrible decision). And so on and so forth. One of the heroes of the Newton was [PARC and Mac veteran] Larry Tesler who took over the project at the end and made it happen.
On Apple with and without Steve Jobs:
As far as Apple goes, it was a different company every few years from the time I joined in 1984. There was Steve [Jobs] — an elemental force — and then there was no Steve. There was John [Sculley]. He was pretty good, but the company grew so fast and started getting very dysfunctional. And then on downhill.
One way to think of all of these organizations is to realize that if they require a charismatic leader who will shoot people in the knees when needed, then the corporate organization and process is a failure. It means no group can come up with a good decision and make it stick just because it is a good idea. All the companies I've worked for have this deep problem of devolving to something like the hunting and gathering cultures of 100,000 years ago. If businesses could find a way to invent "agriculture" we could put the world back together and all would prosper.
You realize by the end of the Time.com piece -- An Interview with Computing Pioneer Alan Kay -- that Kay is profoundly disappointed by much of modern society, starting with the schools. It's what you might expect from a guy who told another interviewer two years ago:
"I had the fortune or misfortune to learn how to read fluently starting at the age of three. So I had read maybe 150 books by the time I hit 1st grade. And I already knew that the teachers were lying to me."
A veteran Apple watcher and a former Apple CEO add insight to insult
FORTUNE -- For readers who might someday find themselves on cable television fielding annoying or clueless questions in your area of expertise, here's a lesson from a couple of pros.
John Sculley, former CEO of Apple (AAPL), and David Kirkpatrick, my former colleague at Fortune, deftly turned a 7-minute interview on Bloomberg TV into an opportunity to set the record straight MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 25, 2012 7:02 AM ET
1) iPhone sales are soft. 2) Yields improved. 3) Apple is clearing the way for a new model
FORTUNE -- At least five analysts lowered their Apple (AAPL) price targets in the past few days based on reports that the company reduced some iPhone supply chain orders for early 2013: UBS' Steve Milunovich (to $700 from $775), Citi's Glen Yeung ($575 from $675), Canaccord's T. Michael Walkley ($750 from $800), Mizuho's Abbey Lamba ($600 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 17, 2012 11:06 AM ET
From Jobs to Sculley to Spindler to Amelio to Jobs (again) and Cook
FORTUNE -- It's been seven months since Fabio Zambelli retired SetteB.IT, the Italian-language blog with which he'd been covering Apple (AAPL) for more than five years. But he's still tracking the company's progress. When Fortune released its annual listing of America's 500 largest companies over the weekend -- a list that showed Apple rising from 35 in 2011 to MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 7, 2012 10:11 AM ET
"What can I say," he told the BBC in 1996. "I hired the wrong guy."
These oft-quoted remarks about John Sculley come from a BBC interview conducted 11 years after the man Jobs hired to run Apple (AAPL) outmaneuvered him in a boardroom coup.
This 20-second clip resurfaced in "Steve Jobs: The Billionaire Hippy," a BBC special that aired last week. Until it gets pulled from YouTube, the hour-long documentary can be MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 18, 2011 3:32 PM ET
A story -- just one story -- from the 1995 "lost interview" showing at theaters tonight
Steve Jobs really turned on the charm for Robert X. Cringely in the newly rediscovered 70 minute interview shot for Cringely's 1996 PBS special "Triumph of the Nerds" and showing in 19 U.S. cities tonight.
My favorite part part is when Jobs answers the question "What's important to you in the development of a product?" with a MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 11, 2011 11:24 AM ET
Apple's Newton handwriting recognition system was undone by a comic strip
The signature feature on the iPhone 4S that Apple (AAPL) unveiled Tuesday is Siri, a so-called intelligent assistant that depends on a lot of fiendishly complex artificial intelligence systems -- voice recognition, understanding context and natural language -- working flawlessly a high percentage of the time.
Few companies know better than Apple the risks of counting on applied AI to sell consumer MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 5, 2011 10:30 AM ET
A computer you can chat with. Hmm. Where have we seen this before?
It was hard for veteran tech reporters to watch Scott Forstall's demonstration of the iPhone 4S's new Siri "intelligent assistant" system (see here, starting at the 73-minute mark) without recalling one of Apple's (AAPL) most embarrassing episodes from the John Sculley era.
Sculley, whose previous job had been, in Steve Jobs' unkind words, selling sugar water for Pepsi, was MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 5, 2011 10:19 AM ET
Hint: See the head shot, center row left, in the current "Apple Leadership" page
Jean-Louis Gassée, who worked for Apple from 1981 to 1990 and once held Steve Jobs' job as head of Mac development, was planning to use the Apple Store's 10th anniversary last May as the theme for one of his always insightful Monday Note columns. But when the day came and went without an Apple-sized splash, he sensed MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 17, 2011 7:04 PM ET
The documentary that premiers Thursday night covers some well-plowed ground
There could be a few surprises in the hour-long biography of Steve Jobs that will kick off this year's "CNBC Titans" series. But judging from the previews and Web-extra videos posted on the show's site, it's a long shot.
For people who have followed the career of Apple's (AAPL) co-founder and CEO, the photography and film clips will have a familiar feel MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 23, 2011 7:11 AM ET
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