Alan Kay, one of the key members at Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), to develop prototypes of networked workstations using the programming language Smalltalk, provides a nice walk down memory lane.
Smalltalk commercialized by Steve Jobs and Apple in their Lisa and Macintosh computers after Steve Jobs famous visit to Xerox.
He recently answered a question on Quora about what he and Steve Jobs talked about at the keynote where the original iPhone was unveiled in 2007:
I think he invited me to the 2007 iPhone unveiling partly because it was kind of a tiny “Dynabook” — and he had always wanted to do one — and partly because he was going to use a quote of mine that he had always taken to heart “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”.
The photo of us chatting was taken right after the event. He brought the iPhone to me, put it in my hands, and asked: “Alan, is this good enough to be criticized?”. My reply was to make a shape with my hands the size of an iPad: “Steve, make it this size and you’ll rule the world”.
When the iPhone had been revealed a few minutes earlier I realized that they must already have done an iPad/Dynabook-like machine (easier) and that the “iPhone first” must have been a marketing/timing decision.
It is interesting to know that Steve Jobs invited him to the iPhone Keynote because he was going to use his quote. As John Gruber points out, while iPad has been a huge success, the iPhone still rules the world.
Here’s the video of former PARC engineer and former Apple’s Chief Scientist Larry Tesler talks about Steve Jobs’ famous visit to Xerox’s PARC:
Xerox’s inability to commercialize Smalltalk was probably one of technology’s biggest missed opportunities.
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