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The Dynabook's original illustration in Alan C.
Kay's 1972 paper
The Dynabook concept was created by Alan Kay in 1968, two years before the founding of Xerox PARCmarker. Kay wanted to make “A Personal Computer For Children Of All Ages.” The ideas led to the development of the Xerox Alto prototype, which was originally called “the interim Dynabook”. It embodied all the elements of a graphical user interface, or GUI, as early as 1972. The software component of this research was Smalltalk, which went on to have a life of its own independent of the Dynabook concept.

The Dynabook concept described what is now known as a laptop computer or, (in some of its other incarnations) a tablet PC or slate computer with nearly eternal battery life and software aimed at giving children access to digital media. Adults could also use a Dynabook, but the target audience was children.

When Microsoft came up with its tablet PC, Alan Kay was quoted as saying "Microsoft's Tablet PC, the first Dynabook-like computer good enough to criticize," a comment he had earlier applied to the Apple Macintosh.

Kay wanted the Dynabook concept to embody the learning theories of Jerome Bruner and some of what Seymour Papert— who had studied with developmental psychologist Jean Piaget and who invented the Logo programming language — was proposing. The hardware on which the programming environment ran was relatively irrelevant. Since the late 1990s, Kay has been working on the Squeak programming system, an open source Smalltalk-based environment which could be seen as a logical continuation of the Dynabook concept. Toshiba also has a line of sub-notebook computers called DynaBook.

Alan Kay is actively involved in the One Laptop Per Child project that uses Smalltalk, Squeak, and the concepts of a computer for learning.

Though the hardware required to create a Dynabook is here today, Alan Kay still thinks the Dynabook hasn't been invented yet, because key software and educational curriculum are missing.

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