Alan Kay: notable U alumnus


There was a prominent oversight in your box (“Notable U Graduates in the Computer Industry,” Jan. 25): Alan Kay, who earned a Master’s of Science in 1968 and a doctorate in 1969, happens to be coming to campus next month to be honored Feb. 22 as a Founders Day Distinguished Alumnus. He will be speaking at several campus events.

Kay is a giant in the world of computing and has been recognized with some of the most prestigious science and engineering awards in the world. As a graduate student at the U, Kay created an early desktop “personal computer” (marking one of the first times the phrase “personal computer” was used) and invented the “graphical user interface” (GUI), object-oriented programming (OOP) and Dynabook, the first laptop PC.

Kay left the U to co-found Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s. He went on to roles including chief scientist with Atari, Apple Computer fellow, vice president of research and development for The Walt Disney Company and senior fellow with Hewlett-Packard. In just the past few years, Kay has received three of the most pre-eminent engineering and science awards given: the 2003 Association for Computing Machinery’s Turing Award, the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” for OOP, the National Academy of Engineering’s Charles Stark Draper Prize (2004) and the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology?(2004). ??Thanks for correcting the oversight by publishing this note about some of Kay’s achievements.

Marcia C. DibbleAssistant Editor, U of U Alumni Association