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Computer pioneer Alan Kay: Silicon Valley is running out of innovation

Alan Kay

Alan Kay is one of Silicon Valley’s top computer pioneers due to his work with colleagues at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) on a broad range of technologies in the early 1970s that directly led to the creation of the PC industry — a $35 trillion global business.

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In this short video clip he speaks about Silicon Valley’s current boom being based on innovation that was funded by the government and by private companies such as Xerox, over a span of more than 13 years beginning in the early 1960s, which helped create the Internet and modern computing.

He was speaking at the Churchill Club in conversation with Vishal Sikka, SAP’s senior VP of Technology and Innovation, moderated by analyst Paul Saffo.

He said that long-term vision is missing and that it’s not a problem of money but of will. He pointed out that Xerox PARC cost about $10 million a year in today’s money, to fund groundbreaking innovations that included the graphical user interface, the computer mouse, Ethernet local area networks, and seminal computer languages such as SmallTalk.

He said that every Fortune 500 company “wastes” $10 million a year on a host of unimportant activities, and that when companies say they would like to create “another PARC” they are lying because they have the funds but not the will to create such an organization .

Silicon Valley companies have benefitted greatly from those early innovations but there is a need for a new generation of core technologies, otherwise we will run out of ideas.


This article by Tom Foremski originally appeared on Silicon Valley Watcher, a Burn Media publishing partner.

Image: jeanbaptisteparis (via Flickr).

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