The Decline of the Xerox PARC Philosophy at Apple Computers. J. Vincent Toups on the Dynabook:

While the Dynabook was meant to be a device deeply rooted in the ethos of active education and human enhancement, the iDevices are essentially glorified entertainment and social interaction (and tracking) devices, and Apple controlled revenue stream generators for developers. The entire “App Store” model, then works to divide the world into developers and software users, whereas the Xerox PARC philosophy was for there to be a continuum between these two states. The Dynabook’s design was meant to recruit the user into the system as a fully active participant. The iDevice is meant to show you things, and to accept a limited kind of input - useful for 250 character Tweets and Facebook status updates, all without giving you the power to upset Content Creators, upon whom Apple depends for its business model. Smalltalk was created with the education of adolescents in mind - the iPad thinks of this group as a market segment. […]

It is interesting that at one point, Jobs (who could not be reached for comment [note: this was written before Jobs’ death]) described his vision of computers as “interpersonal computing,” and by that standard, his machines are a success. It is just a shame that in an effort to make interpersonal engagement over computers easy and ubiquitous, the goal of making the computer itself easily engaging has become obscured. In a world where centralized technology like Google can literally give you a good guess at any piece of human knowledge in milliseconds, its a real tragedy that the immense power of cheap, freely available computational systems remains locked behind opaque interfaces, obscure programming languages, and expensive licensing agreements.

The article is also great because it helps dispel the myth that Apple took “Xerox’s rough unfinished UI and polished it for the Mac.” It’s closer to the truth to say Apple dramatically stripped the Smalltalk interface of its functionality that resulted in a toy, albeit cheaper, personal computer.

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