The Father Of Mobile Computing Is Not Impressed


(Marc Cooper) #1

Very interesting interview with Alan Kay.

And so, his conception of the World Wide Web was infinitely tinier and weaker and terrible. … You know, [HTML is] terrible and most people can’t see it. … It’s not really standardized because they’re up to HTML 5, and if you’ve done a good thing, you don’t keep on revving it and adding more epicycles onto a bad idea. We call this reinventing the flat tire. In the old days, you would chastise people for reinventing the wheel. Now we beg, “Oh, please, please reinvent the wheel.”

JavaScript?

At least give us what Engelbart did, for Christ’s sake. But that’s the world we’re in. We’re in that world, and the more stuff like that world that is in that world, the more the world wants to be that way, because that is the weight of this redefining of the normal.

So, this is like less than what people got with Mac in 1984. Mac had a really good undo. It allowed you to explore things. The iPhone is basically giving one little keyhole, and if you do something wrong you actually go back out and start the app over again. Think about this. How stupid is this? It’s about as stupid as you can get. But how successful is the iPhone? It’s about as successful as you can get, so that matches you up with something that is the logical equivalent of television in our time.

Anyway, tons of thoughtful, informed stuff to ponder.


(Andy Wootton) #2

Ted Nelson invented the word “hypertext”. He thinks HTML is rubbish too but it’s a bit like Richard Stallman with The HURD, he’s been working on his own solution since before the web was born.

Good news though: apparently the HTTP ‘web assembler’ binary format is 50 times faster than JavaScript. Or does that mean we’re stuck with it? :slight_smile:


(Marc Cooper) #3

I guess you didn’t read the article. That’s a shame, but understandable given its length.

With its references, I finally grasped what Kay is saying. I’m pretty sure I agree, but I need to read a couple of the books he referenced this week to make sure.

I hadn’t realised he was close to Jobs – an odious individual, imo, which Kay alludes to: “Steve wasn’t capable of being friends. That wasn’t his personality.”

Your love-in with Ted “Intertwingles” Nelson is funny.

Alan Kay replied to a few things on HN, if anyone is interested. I suspect not. I should move on, I guess.


(Andy Wootton) #4

Not last night. I left it until now.

I respect Nelson’s 1970s/80s ideas. I think it needed incredible vision to identify that paper was a limitation. My final year computer science project was typed on a manual typewriter. It had to be.

I think he’s become a grumpy old man who doesn’t think the world appreciates him as much as it should. I see him as a warning. I want to prove he’s wrong about intertwingularity and fulfill my early potential so I don’t end up like him :smiley:


(Matt Andrews) #5

Life’s too short for 6500+ words, especially when this is a standout quote:

[HTML is] terrible and most people can’t see it. … It’s not really standardized because they’re up to HTML 5, and if you’ve done a good thing, you don’t keep on revving it and adding more epicycles onto a bad idea. We call this reinventing the flat tire. In the old days, you would chastise people for reinventing the wheel. Now we beg, “Oh, please, please reinvent the wheel.”

I mean… what? So when Tim invented HTML in 1991, he should’ve just left it at that? He should’ve anticipated the desire to embed <audio>/<video> elements on webpages?

I don’t buy the idea that a standard is a one-time thing and can’t be versioned and iterated on. Maybe if you’re laying down fundamentals like weights and measures, but for something like HTML, a document format?

Also, of all the things to have a whinge about with modern tech… really, there are too many versions of HTML?!


(Andy Wootton) #6

I read it. He’s almost as difficult to read as he is to listen to. It’s a pity as there are so many great ideas hidden in there. I’m only vaguely aware of the DynaBook.

A couple of ways I could approach that @mattpointblank.

  1. I think Ted Nelson DID envisage the need for other media when he described hypertext, before Tim did the deed but Berners-Lee only needed to link to other docs. He just automated references. They are one-way. The mistake was to take move forward rather than learning from the experiment to work out what we needed for hyper-media and web applications.
  2. Maybe we needed different standards for things that weren’t just hypermedia. It’s like instead of inventing cars, we added motors to horses and now we spend all our money on replacing horses because we wear them out so fast.

(Andy Wootton) #7

I’ve just realised this is what I was talking about reproducing with a Pi yesterday :slight_smile:

Mine’s smaller.


(Andy Wootton) #8

I’d forgotten Nelson cited a 1945 ‘paper’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memex, based on micro-film. Interesting use of the word “mechanized” about information/data, as we talk about “computing machines” & ‘machine intelligence’.


(Andy Wootton) #9

Critique https://blog.codinghorror.com/the-xanadu-dream/

May contain DRM.