A Visit With Alan Kay

Alan Kay is one of my computing heroes. All this stuff we do every day as programmers? Kay had a hand in inventing a huge swath of it:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/01/a-visit-with-alan-kay.html
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Hey Jeff, enough with the PHP cheap shots. It’s getting very tiresome.

I’m a professional PHP developer with a passion for the language and I actually produce functional, elegant code.

Throughout the years I’ve really really enjoyed your posts but… you are almost losing a reader here. I know one reader might not mean anything to you but it saddens me that I almost don’t feel like reading your posts anymore.

Great article, Jeff, but am I the only one who is tired of seeing you take unfounded shots at PHP?


You make great arguments when you want to, Jeff. You’re better than this…

Guess we think alike:

“Turing Award Winner” badge! Do it!

Plus, people can’t complain that it is unobtainable

a href=http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/01/podcast-37/#comment-12605http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/01/podcast-37/#comment-12605/a


I still say we strive to get Alan Kay on the podcast via Skype/Phone.

Frank - PHP is extremely versatile an deservedly successful, but it’s still held together by string and chewing gum. He’s not taking shots, just pointing out the lack of correlation between clean language/API design and popularity. Don’t be such a fanboy.

so, in the photo which one’s Jeff?

John - I can write some absolutely godawful code in Haskell :slight_smile: Language has little to do with it

Nasi - Language has little to do with it

Well, Jeff surely seems to think otherwise


@Nasi - I’d argue that your comment is the exact type of fanboy mudslinging that I called Jeff on. I back up all my arguments with logic and references. If you want to explain why or how PHP is held together by string and chewing gum, I’m all ears. However if you’re not prepared to make a reasoned argument, don’t bother commenting.

Looks like a manakin. Is that PI on the right Vint?

Oh snap, did Kay just dis Rock Band?

Yeah, that part is kind of a bummer for people like me who love Rock Band. It’s a common attitude for musicians, though.


Nerd fight!!!

PHP advocates are so sensitive…

I think PHP is great for web type stuff (for which it was clearly designed), but really isn’t a great general purpose language. Put in that context, I think Jeff’s points about PHP make a lot more sense.

It would be irresponsible to compare PHP to Pascal and somehow give it any sort of equal footing as a general purpose language. A well engineered general purpose language has many merits when you are solving general problems or if you only get to pick one language. On a slightly different tack, a special purpose language is generally better at solving special problems for which it was designed.

I think the disconnect is that language geeks are likely to rate a language by it’s general purpose qualities instead of it’s ability to solve problems in a very specific domain. For example, I don’t think anyone would agree that lisp is the best programming language for writing html templates for a web site.

IMHO In today’s world, being a single language fanboy will not work anymore. Most problems today are better served by embracing Polyglot programming and using the right tool for the job. Neal Ford has a pretty good talk on this subject if you ever have a chance to catch it at a No Fluff Just Stuff.

By the way, I listened to the linked video (discussion) at the Mother of All Demos conference (speakers: Alan Kay, Andy van Dam). There was a fair amount of teeth gnashing about what the early work of Engelbart, et al, has devolved to in the age of the Web. Somehow, when stuff scales to become available in some form to over a billion people, this kind of thing tends to happen.

However, there are efforts to claw back what was lost. At the end of discussion Kay specifically mentioned Sun Labs’ Lively Kernel (http://research.sun.com/projects/lively/).

The next decade will be very interesting, if we manage to keep from sliding into a full-scale depression. (If we don’t it will still be interesting, but not in a good way.)

First Post.

Random note: I’m pretty sure that’s Vint Cerf on Alan’s right (far left of the photo, looking sharp as always).

Tim: you’re right. Vint Cerf (father of IP) is on Alan’s right and was also on the Rebooting Computing design team (which was huddled together for a quick meeting in this photo)

The body text typography on your site looks awful in Chrome.

Works On My Machine™

99.9999999% of the time this is from Windows XP users who have ClearType disabled, and the C fonts (from Office 2007, usually) installed. Either enable ClearType or uninstall the C fonts, which are designed for ClearType.

It’s funny that no matter how upscale or intelligent the general audience for anything is, there’s almost always some idiot who has to say FIRST!

It’s pretty awesome that one of the legends of programming has found his way to your little project, Jeff. That’s gotta feel pretty cool.

Another great post. And nice to know there are people like Alan Kay using StackOverflow - just goes to show that the openness and, in some respects, anonymity of the web are great ways of uniting all, and perhaps getting to rub shoulders with some of your heros. What other medium allows you to do that?