Dynabook

From Academic Kids

The Dynabook was a conceptual system proposed by Xerox PARC in the late 60s and early 70s. The ideas behind it led to the development of the Alto prototype, which embodied all the elements of a graphical use 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 iterations) a tablet PC or slate computer with nearly eternal battery life and software aimed mostly at giving children unlimited expression opportunities with all digital media imaginable. Adults could also use a Dynabook from the start, but the target audience would be children, and the software would grow up with them.

Alan Kay was the main proponent of the Dynabook concept. When Microsoft came up with its tablet PC he 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 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, 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.

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