From Alan Kay’s Dynabook to the Apple iPad

“What you’re looking at [on the left] might seem like an early to mid-90’s predecessor to the iPad, but you might be surprised to learn that the device, called the Dynabook, was conceptualized in 1968 by famed computer scientist Alan Kay,” Edible Apple explains. “The device was envisioned as an educational tool and was naturally geared towards children, as evidenced by a 1972 research paper titled ‘A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages’ that Kay published while working at the legendary Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.”

“In a somewhat famous exchange, after Jobs intro’d the iPhone, Jobs approached Kay (who used to work at Apple in the mid 80’s) and asked him if the device was ‘good enough to criticize.’ Kay responded, ‘Make the screen at least 5″x8″ and you will rule the world,'” Edible Apple reports. “With the iPad, Apple has heeded that advice.”

Edible Apple writes, “The iPad has the potential to change the way we as a society use and interact with technology, and while Apple deserves credit for bringing the iPad to life, we should at least be aware that the idea for such a device didn’t magically appear on a whiteboard in an Apple boardroom out of thin air.”

Full article here.


  1. It takes a perfectionist like Jobs to *ask* for criticism, and listened.
    Adobe, Google, and Microsoft would have just automatically start defending their product and dismiss the criticism.

    MW: values

  2. Big ideas – truly revolutionary ideas – are few and far between. The real magic happens, though when people take those big ideas and put them into practice, making them into something usable, productive, and even entertaining.

    Apple has mastered the art of taking big ideas and weaving them into the usable, productive and entertaining products we all know and love.

    Keep it up, Apple!

  3. Changing the world, with one product at a time.

    When they invent something, they don’t cut corners, they’re not afraid to take big risks, and they never accept anything but a perfect, intuitive user interface.

    When they see a competitor’s product, that they deem to be short of it’s potential, they take their own philosophy, and apply it to existing products to make them revolutionary.

  4. Isn’t it amazing how little Xerox benefited from the spectacular work done at PARC. And yet I am sure the senior management made obscene amounts of money but did not know how to be more than a 1 trick pony. Most senior managers are not worth near what they are paid.

  5. Some things that never offend me:
    1. Calling me an Apple Fanboy. Go ahead, I don’t care. I got my first computer in 1985 and it was running ……. “Windows 95” ten years before Gates stole it. I’m a fanboy of a computer that’s stayed 10 years out in front most all of those years (those rough dark years, not so much.)
    2. Saying that Apple doesn’t invent stuff. So? Who cares? Being first with an idea is no big deal. Taking an idea, having a vision of how to use and implement that idea and creating a product that sells — that’s a big deal.

  6. @Al
    Yes, it is amazing, especially because they had products available using their inventions. The company I worked for in the 80’s sent me to evaluate the Xerox ‘Star’ information system which had a graphical user interface, trash can, folders, a mouse, and was networked. The software included mail, calendar, address book, word processor, spreadsheet, and file/print sharing. It was mini computer based and all the hardware/software was proprietary, but what an amazing system. We didn’t get one because it was too expensive.

  7. Apple isn’t claiming it invented the tablet computer – Apple just claims it made the tablet computer do what people need and want it to do, and to do so easily.

    Motorola didn’t invent the idea of a cordless/mobile phone, but the Star Tac made mobile phones easy and useful.

    Coming up with an idea is easy (although Alan Key was obviously visionary), the hard part is making it work well and easy to use.

    And that’s Apple’s specialty.

  8. Today it’s hard to appreciate how visionary the Dynabook was for it’s day. Computers took up entire rooms. Networks were nonexistent (let alone wireless). Flat screens? Science fiction.

    I had the distinct honor of meeting Dr. Kay several years ago. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I doubt many users have heard of him, but it is fair to say that he is one of the people that have changed the world as we know it.

    When I grow up, I want to be Alan Kay.

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