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On peut comprendre que l’Eglise soit attachée au célibat “en vue du Royaume”. Le lien entre célibat et sacerdoce est déjà moins évident puisque cette discipline n’est pas universelle. Mais le droit des fidèles à avoir accès aux sacrements ne devrait-il pas être prioritaire par rapport à toute autre considération ? Je pense en particulier à nos déserts ecclésiaux du monde rural où bien des chrétiens âgés ont du mal à avoir accès à la communion, et encore plus à la réconciliation ou au sacrement des malades.
Un sacrement n’est pas un droit. C’est un don gratuit du Seigneur. Si on suit la logique de cette question-ci, elle ne concerne pas le célibat des prêtres mais le fait que les sacrements soient administrés par un prêtre, ou demandent une présence physique, ou demandent une préparation etc. Car, à ce moment-là :
Par ailleurs, que la même personne pose toujours la même question ne va pas changer notre réponse. Cf., donc, nos articles précédents : https://reponses-catholiques.fr/manque-de-pretres-et-eglise-schizophrene/.
Ne pas avoir accès aux sacrements est une souffrance pour les personnes isolées, âgées ou malades. Nous leur demandons de prier pour que le Seigneur envoie de saints prêtres et de lui présenter leur manque. Sans doute qu’elles n’ont aucune part à la déchristianisation et l’apostasie généralisée en Occident. Mais elles sont membres d’une communauté ecclésiale et la faute des certains membres retombe sur tous. Comme le petit reste d’Israël au temps d’Isaïe ou des Maccabées, ce sont les plus fidèles qui souffrent du fait des péchés du plus grand nombre. Ce que les Livres d’Isaïe ou des Maccabées nous enseignent, pourtant, c’est que le Seigneur les entend à un moment ou un autre. Que chacun oeuvre à son niveau pour qu’il y ait des familles chrétiennes, matrices de futurs prêtres et consacrées.
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Entering PARC today is much like entering any large corporation or research center: a desk where visitors sign in, identification badges for employees, and a requirement that visitors be escorted at all times. Cameras are forbidden.
PARC has had a fluctuating reputation for openness. On the one hand, relatively few articles were published by its researchers in its first five years; on the other hand, the Apple Lisa was conceived in 1979 when Steve Jobs, Apple’s chairman, toured PARC and saw his first bit-mapped display.
In the earliest days, recalled David Thornburg—a former PARC researcher who is now chief scientist of Koala Technologies Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.—PARC carried the open-door policy to extremes. Jack Goldman, Xerox’s vice president for research, had in fact decided to build the research center within bicycling distance of Stanford University to ensure cross-fertilization with the academic world.
“People were coming in and out all the time from the artificial-intelligence lab at Stanford and from other places,” Thornburg said. “There wasn’t as much of a concern for security-we saw ourselves as a university environment where we didn’t have to teach courses.”
Thornburg recalled one incident that exemplifies that open attitude. In the late spring of 1971, Goldman held a staff meeting at PARC during which he stressed the need for a way of communicating the center’s research results to Xerox at large.
Thornburg remembered that Goldman told the staff, “We need to have some kind of reporting-six-monthly reports or monthly reports—so the rest of the company has a way of finding out what’s going on.”
“So this one fellow,” Thornburg related, “who was sitting back in his chair raised his hand and said, ‘Well, if you ask me, Jack, what I think we should do is build a computer-based query system where we write our reports and tag the different levels of the report in terms of their depth, so somebody who just wants a summary review will get a condensed document, and someone who wants an in-depth review will get the whole document.’”
While Goldman praised this innovative suggestion, Thornburg said, PARC researcher Bob Bauer, who was sitting next to Thornburg, suppressed laughter. The meeting broke up, and Bauer “shot out of the room into the hallway and was just laughing hysterically,” Thornburg said, continuing:
“I went over to him and asked, ‘Bob, what’s so funny?’ And he said, ‘You know that guy who just gave the suggestion to Goldman?’
“‘He doesn’t work here.’ Bauer said. ‘He’s from the Stanford Al lab, and he was over here talking with some people, and they said, “Gee, we’ve got to go to a staff meeting, do you want to come along?”‘
“I don’t think Goldman ever knew that guy didn’t work for Xerox,” Thornburg said.
The word went out quietly through PARC that openness had its limits, but it wasn’t yet clear where those limits were. A much more explosive incident, in terms of PARC’s reputation and its relations with the parent company, came with a 1973 article In Rolling Stone magazine that was written by Stewart Brand.
Brand, creator of The Whole Earth Catalog, a bible for the 1960s, had visited PARC, as well as several other research centers, to see what its visionaries were doing. He found Alan Kay, working on the Dynabook for “us kids”; Peter Deutsch, who wrote one of the first Lisp interpreters at age 15 and had “served on every major front in computer science” while working for ARPA; and Bob Taylor, the “chief marble collector” from ARPA, who put the group together.
Taylor, according to Brand, was directing his researchers on the premise that the benefits of large, centralized computers “‘are less than claimed.’
“And that is the general bent of research at [PARC]—soft, away from hugeness and centrality, toward the small and the personal, toward putting maximum computing power in the hands of every individual who wants it,” Brand wrote.
“When the article, ‘Fanatic life and symbolic death among the computer bums,’ was published [in Rolling Stone], it really upset Xerox,” recalled Alvy Ray Smith, now vice president and chief technical officer of Pixar Inc., San Rafael, Calif. “All these wild, hairy people out there in a research lab got written up—how embarrassing! I’ve recently learned that when you go out and try to raise giant money in the financial world, you don’t come across as a long hair. Xerox could not afford to have people think they were flakes.”
“Jack Goldman, and I forget who else, came out to PARC right after the article was published,” Thornburg recalled. “We were all on the edges of our seats thinking the lab was going to be closed down.
“It was made crystal-clear to use that this was not all right. If it happened again, the lab was going to be shut down. That was a very sobering experience. That was about the time we began having badges and all that sort of stuff—which after all is what companies do.”
When David Em, the artist, first visited PARC in 1975, such trappings of corporate security were the norm. “It was a strange environment for an artist,” he recalled. “There was a guard gate, you needed a pass, there were all sorts of access codes on the terminals.”
Even today, though, PARC is not nearly as watchful as many corporate research facilities. Many students and faculty members from Stanford are consultants at PARC, carrying ideas freely back and forth, and visitors still occasionally wander the halls by themselves. And some of the regular employees—having trouble figuring out whether to clip their badges to the collars of their T-shirts or to the belt loops of their shorts—just keep them in a handy pocket.
Asked to describe their vision of the charter for the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and of their role at PARC, the following group of early employees gave diverse responses.
“If Xerox was going to be an interesting company in the 80’s and ‘90s, it was going to have to move out beyond copiers to a broader context of dealing with information that knowledge-workers used. The office in the ‘60s and ‘70s used analog technology. It seemed that digital technology could be developed to allow people to work with knowledge.”—Robert Taylor, at PARC during 1970-83 and now director of Digital Equipment Corp.’s Systems Research Center.
“Xerox offered 10 years of blank-check funding. They never promised to make the stuff into products; that wasn’t the charter.” —Alan Kay, 1970-81, now a research fellow at Apple Computer Inc.
“PARC had three roles: to be a resource to the rest of the company, consulting and advising and assisting; to be viewed as an absolutely first-class research facility by the rest of the world; and to have some discernible impact on Xerox Corp.’s product line five years hence.” —Richard G. Shoup, 1970-79, now chairman of Aurora Systems.
“What office workers are really in the business of doing is not copying pieces of paper; it’s copying information. PARC was going to make other ways of manipulating and handling that information.’’ —Jim Mitchell, 1971-84, now director of Acorn Computer Co.’s Palo Alto research facility.
“Xerox offered 10 years of blank-check funding. They never promised to make the stuff into products; that wasn’t the charter.” —Alan Kay
“Alan Kay said we were going to do a 10-year project, and I thought that at the end of 1980 we would have a Dynabook.” —Larry Tesler, 1973-80, now manager of object-oriented systems at Apple Computer Inc.
“I was fresh out of graduate school. I knew I would be working with amorphous semiconductors, and that was exciting. —David Thornburg, 1971-81, now cofounder of Koala Technologies Inc.
“There seemed to be a sort of open agenda as to what we did. Each of us had his own vision of what was possible.” —Dan Ingalls, 1971-84, now a principal engineer at Apple Computer Inc.
‘‘The only particular thing I remember is I figured that if Alan Kay works there, I bet I don’t have to wear a tie. I was right.” —Doug Fairbairn, 1972-80, now vice president for user-designed technology at VLSI Technologies Inc.
“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be put to work making copiers; they argued that the issues of software development and productivity were going to be Important to them.” —Warren Teitelman, 1972-84, now manager of programming environments at Sun Microsystems.
“We would be doing good computer science in an environment in which it would eventually find its way into office products.” —Chuck Geschke, 1972-82, now executive vice president at Adobe Systems Inc.
“I came to work on some special-purpose system architecture, to explore how to create custom digital hardware-software systems.”—Lynn Conway, 1973-83, now professor of electrical engineering and computer science and associate dean of engineering at the University of Michigan, after a recent stint as a manager of computer research at DARPA.
“Xerox PARC had this aura of being a very far-out place. It was corporate, but it was very unusual for anything corporate to have the apparent foresight to bring some of the best people in the world together and let them do anything they wanted.” —Alvy Ray Smith, 1973-74, now director of graphics research in Lucasfilm Ltd.’s computer graphics department; soon to be vice president and chief technical officer of Pixar Inc., a spin-off of Lucasfilm.
“I really didn’t have a good understanding—I don’t think anybody had. It was more a question of who we would be working with.’’ —Charles Simonyi, 1974-81, now manager of application development at Microsoft Corp.
“It isn’t PARC’s job to develop products. PARC’s job is to develop the ideas on which we can produce a product scenario.’’ —John Ellenby, 1974-80, now president of Grid Systems Corp.
“The charter was to explore various forms of office systems, to try things out, to develop software and systems that would be useful in offices. It made perfectly good sense to me.’’ —Severo Ornstein, 1974-83, now national chairman of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.
“I was hired to manage the Systems Science Lab, basically centered around using computers. Alan [Kay) was probably one of the drawing attractions.” —Bert Sutherland, 1975-81, now a founder of Sutherland, Sproull & Associates, Inc.
“Very few people were hired with a specific project in mind. If you’re a researcher, it’s up to you to be a self-motivator.” —John Warnock, 1978-82, now president of Adobe Systems Inc.
In 1979, three years after Alan Kay had wanted to throw away the Altos “like Kleenex,” the Dorado, a machine 10 times more powerful, finally saw the light of day.
“It was supposed to be built by one of the development organizations because they were going to use it in some of their products,” recalled Severo Ornstein, one of the designers of the Dorado and now chairman of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in Palo Alto. “But they decided not to do that, so if our lab was going to have it, we were going to have to build it ourselves. We went through a long agonizing period in which none of us who were going to have to do the work really wanted to do it.
“Taylor was running the lab by that time,” Ornstein said. “The whole thing was handled extremely dexterously. He never twisted anyone’s arm really directly; he presided over it and kept order in the process, but he really allowed the lab to figure out that that was what it had to do. It was really a good thing, too, because it was very hard to bring the Dorado to life. A lot of blood was shed.”
At first, Ornstein recalled, the designers made a false start by using a new circuit-board technology-so-called multiwire technology, in which individual wires are bonded to a board to make connections. But the Dorado boards were too complex for multiwire technology. When the first Dorado ran, there was a question in many people’s minds whether there would ever be a second.
“There Butler Lampson’s faith was important,” Ornstein said. “He was the only one who believed that it could be produced in quantity.
In fact, even after the Dorado was redesigned using printed-circuit boards instead of multiwire and Dorados began to be built in quantity, they were still rare. “We never had enough budget to populate the whole community with Dorados,” recalled one former PARC manager. “They dribbled out each year, so that in 1984 still not everybody had a Dorado.”
Those who did were envied. “I had a Dorado of my very own,” said John Warnock. “Chuck Geschke was a manager; he didn’t get one.”
“In the early days...I got to take my Alto home. But the evolution of machines at Xerox went in the opposite direction from making it easy to take the stuff home.—Dan Ingalls
“I got a crusty old Alto and a sheet of paper,” Geschke said. The advent of the Dorado allowed researchers whose projects were too big for the Alto to make use of bit-mapped displays and all the other advantages of personal computers. ‘‘We had tried to put Lisp on the Alto, and it was a disaster,” recalled Teitelman. “When we got the Dorado, we spent eight or nine months dis cussing what we would want to see in a programming environment that would combine the best of Mesa, Lisp, and Small talk.” The result was Cedar, now commonly acknowledged to be one of the best programming environments anywhere.
“Cedar put some of the good features of Lisp into Mesa, like garbage collection and run-time type-checking,’’ said Mitchell of Acorn. Garbage collection is a process by which memory space that is no longer being used by a program can be reclaimed; run time type-checking allows a program to determine the types of its arguments—whether integers, character strings, or floating-point numbers—and choose the operations it performs on them accordingly.
Interlisp, the language Teitelman had nurtured for 15 years, also was transported to the Dorado, where it was the basis for a research effort that has now grown into the Intelligent Systems Laboratory at PARC.
PARC’s Smalltalk group, who had gotten used to their Altos and then built the Notetaker, another small computer, had some trouble dealing with the Dorados.
“In the early days, we had Smalltalk running on an Alto, and I got to take my Alto home,” recalled Ingalls. “But the evolution of machines at Xerox went in the opposite direction from making it easy to take the stuff home. The next machine, the Dolphin, was less transportable, and the Dorado is out of the question—it’s a fire-breathing dragon.”
While some of PARC’s pioneers were getting restless by the mid-1970s, others were just beginning to find uses for the marvelous tools of the office of the future. One was Lynn Conway, who used the Alto, networks, and laser printers to develop a new method of designing integrated circuits and disseminate the method to hundreds of engineers at several dozen institutions around the country.
When Bert Sutherland came in as manager of the Systems Science Laboratory in 1975, he brought Carver Mead, a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, to PARC “to wander in and create some havoc.” Mead was an expert in semi conductor design who had invented the MESFET in the late 1960s.
Sutherland had worked on the application of computer graphics to integrated-circuit layout, Conway recalled, so it was natural for him to think about applying an advanced personal computer like the Alto to the problem of IC design. Conway herself was drawn to integrated-circuit design by the frustration of the OCR-Fax project, in which she had conceived an elegant architecture that could only be realized as racks and racks of equipment. But those racks might become a few chips if only they could be designed by someone who knew what they should do and how they should fit together.
“Carver Mead came up and gave a one-week course at PARC on integrated-circuit design,” Fairbairn recalled. “Lynn Conway and I were the ones that really got excited about it and really wanted to do something.”
“Then a whole bunch of things really clicked,” said Conway. “While Carver and I were cross-educating each other on what was going on in computing and in devices, he was able to explain some of the basic MOS design methods that had been evolving within Intel. And we began to see ways to generalize the structures that [those designers] had generated.’’ Instead of working only on computer tools for design, Conway explained, she and Mead worked to make the design methods simpler and to build tools for the refined methods.
“Between mid-’75 and mid-’77, things went from a fragmentary little thing—one of a number of projects Bert wanted to get going—to the point where we had it all in hand, with examples, and it was time to write.”
In a little less than two years, [Carver] Mead and [Lynn] Conway had developed the concepts of scalable design rules, repetitive structures, and the rest of what is now known as structured VLSI design
In a little less than two years, Mead and Conway had developed the concepts of scalable design rules, repetitive structures, and the rest of what is now known as structured VLSI design—to the point where they could teach it in a single semester.
Today structured VLSI design is taught at more than 100 universities, and thousands of different chips have been built with it. But in the summer of 1977, the Mead-Conway technique was untested—n fact belittled. How could they get it accepted?
“The amazing thing about the PARC environment in 1976-77 was the feeling of power; all of a sudden you could create things and make lots of them. Not just one sheet, but whole books,” said Conway.
And that is exactly what she and her cohorts did. “We just self-published the thing [Introduction to VLSI Systems],” said Conway, “and put it in a form that if you didn’t look twice, you might think this was a completely sound, proven thing.”
It looked like a book, and Addison-Wesley agreed to publish it as a book. Conway insisted it couldn’t have happened without the Altos. “Knowledge would have gotten out in bits and pieces, always muddied and clouded-we couldn’t have generated such a pure form and generated it so quickly.’’
The one tool Conway used most in the final stages of the VLSI project was networks: not only the Ethernet within PARC, but the ARPAnet that connected PARC to dozens of research sites across the country. “The one thing I am clear of in retrospect,” said Conway, “is the sense of having powerful invisible weapons that people couldn’t understand we had. The environment at PARC gave us the power to outfox and outmaneuver people who would think we were crazy or try to stop us; otherwise we would never have had the nerve to go out with it the way we did.”
Even with a development organization, it was an uphill battle to get Xerox executives to accept a product. One example was the Notetaker computer, conceived by Adele Goldberg, a researcher in the Smalltalk group who is currently president of the Association for Computing Machinery and who is still at PARC. “Poor Adele,” Tesler said. “The rest of us got involved and kept redefining the project.”
The Notetaker ended up as an 8086-based computer that could fit under an airplane seat. It was battery-powered, ran Smalltalk, and had a touch-sensitive screen designed by Thornburg. “We had a custom monitor, we had error-corrected memory, a lot of custom engineering that we would normally only do for a real product,” said Fairbairn, the Notetaker’s chief hardware designer. “The last year before I left PARC,” Tesler said, “I spent flying around the country talking to Xerox executives, carrying Notetaker with me. It was the first portable computer run in an airport. Xerox executives made all sorts of promises: we’ll buy 20,000, just talk to this executive in Virginia, then talk to this executive in Connecticut. The company was so spread out, they never got the meeting together. After a year I was ready to give up.”
While Xerox may not have been ready to run with a portable computer, others were. The Osborne I was introduced in 1981, about nine months after Adam Osborne reportedly toured PARC, where pictures of the Notetaker were prominently displayed.
Essentially, the PARC researchers worked in an ivory tower for the first five years; while projects were in their infancy, there was little time for much else. But by 1976, with an Alto on every desk and electronic mail a way of life at the center, re searchers yearned to see their creations used by friends and neighbors.
At that point, Kay recalled, about 200 Altos were in use at PARC and other Xerox divisions; PARC proposed that Xerox market a mass-production version of the Alto: the Alto III.
“On Aug. 18, 1976, Xerox turned down the Alto III,” Kay said.
So the researchers, rather than turning their project over to a manufacturing division, continued working with the Alto.
“That was the reason for our downfall,” said Kay. “We didn’t get rid of the Altos. Xerox management had been told early on that Altos at PARC were like Kleenex; they would be used up in three years and we would need a new set of things 10 times faster. But when this fateful period came along, there was no capital.
“We had a meeting at Pajaro Dunes [Calif.] called ‘Let’s burn our disk packs.’ We could sense the second derivative of progress going negative for us,” Kay related. “I really should have gone and grenaded everybody’s disks.”
Instead of starting entirely new research thrusts, the PARC employees focused on getting the fruits of their past research projects out the door as products.
Every few years the Xerox Corp. has a meeting of all its managers from divisions around the world to discuss where the company may be going. At the 1977 meeting, held in Boca Raton, Fla., the big event was a demonstration by PARC researchers of the systems they had built.
The PARC workers assigned to the Boca Raton presentation put their hearts, souls, and many Xerox dollars into the effort. Sets were designed and built, rehearsals were held on a Holly wood sound stage, and Altos and Dovers were shipped between Hollywood and Palo Alto with abandon. It took an entire day to set up the exhibit in an auditorium in Boca Raton, and a special air-conditioning truck had to be rented from the local airport to keep the machines cool. But for much of the Xerox corporate staff, this was the first encounter with the “eggheads” from PARC.
“PARC was a very strange place to the rest of the company... It was thought of as weird computer people who had beards, who didn’t bathe or wear shoes, who spent long hours deep into the night staring at their terminals...and who basically were antisocial egg heads. Frankly, some of us fed that impression."—Richard Shoup
“PARC was a very strange place to the rest of the company,” Shoup said. “It was not only California, but it was nerds. It was thought of as weird computer people who had beards, who didn’t bathe or wear shoes, who spent long hours deep into the night staring at their terminals, who had no relationships with any other human beings, and who basically were antisocial egg heads. Frankly, some of us fed that impression, as if we were above the rest of the company.”
There was some difficulty in getting the rest of Xerox to take PARC researchers and their work seriously.
“The presentation went over very well, and the battle was won, but the patient died,” Goldman said. Not only had Xerox executives seen the Alto, the Ethernet, and the laser printer, they had even been shown a Japanese-language word processor. “But the company couldn’t bring them to market!” Goldman said. (By 1983, the company did market a Japanese version of its Star computer.)
One reason that Xerox had such trouble bringing PARC’s advances to market was that, until 1976, there was no development organization to take research prototypes from PARC and turn them into products. “At the beginning, the way in which the technology would be transferred was not explicit,” Teitelman said. “We took something of a detached view and assumed that someone was going to pick it up. It wasn’t until later on that this issue got really focused.”
While PARC may have had more than its share of successes, like any organization it couldn’t escape some failures. The one most frequently cited by former PARC researchers is Polos.
Polos was an alternate approach to distributed computing. While Thacker and McCreight were designing the Alto, another group at PARC was working with a cluster of 12 Data General Novas, attempting to distribute functions among the machines so that one machine would handle editing, one would handle input and output, another would handle filing.
“With Altos,” Sutherland said, “everything each person needed was put in each machine on a small scale. Polos was an attempt to slice the pie in a different way-to split up offices functionally.”
By the time Polos was working, the Alto computers were proliferating throughout PARC, so Polos was shut down. But it had an afterlife: Sutherland distributed the 12 Novas among other Xerox divisions, where they served a£ the first remote gateways onto PARC’s Alto network, and the Polos displays were used as terminals within PARC until they were junked in 1977. Another major PARC project that failed was a combination optical character reader and facsimile machine. The idea was to develop a system that could take printed pages of mixed text and graphics, recognize the text as such and transmit the characters in their ASCII code, then send the rest of the material using the less-efficient facsimile coding method.
“It was fabulously complicated and fairly crazy,” said Charles Simonyi, now manager of application development at Microsoft Corp. ‘‘On this project they had this incredible piece of hardware that was the equivalent of a 10,000-line Fortran program.” Unfortunately, the equivalent of tens of thousands of lines of Fortran in those days meant tens of thousands of individual integrated circuits.
“While we made substantial progress at the algorithmic and architecture level,’’ said Conway, who worked on the OCR project, “it became clear that with the circuit technology at that time it wouldn’t be anywhere near an economically viable thing.” The project was dropped in 1975.
The same kinds of simplification that made for the modeless editor were also applied to programming languages and environments at PARC. Seeking a language that children could use, Kay could regularly be seen testing his work with kindergarten and elementary-school pupils.
What Kay aimed for was the Dynabook: a simple, portable personal computer that would cater to a person’s information needs and provide an outlet for creativity-writing, drawing, and music composition. Smalltalk was to be the language of the Dynabook. It was based on the concepts of classes pioneered in the programming language Simula, and on the idea of interacting objects communicating by means of messages requesting actions, rather than by programs performing operations directly on data. The first version of Smalltalk was written as the result of a chance conversation between Kay, Ingalls, and Ted Kaehler, another PARC researcher. Ingalls and Kaehler were thinking about writing a language, and Kay said, “You can do one on just one page.”
What Kay aimed for was the Dynabook: a simple, portable personal computer.
He explained, “If you look at a Lisp interpreter written in itself, the kernel of these things is incredibly small. Smalltalk could be even smaller than Lisp.”
The problem with this approach, Kay recalled, is that “Smalltalk is doubly recursive: you’re in the function before you ever do anything with the arguments.” In Smalltalk-72, the first version of the language, control was passed to the object as soon as possible. Thus writing a concise definition of Smalltalk-in Small talk-was very difficult.
“It took about two weeks to write 10 lines of code,” Kay said, “and it was very hard to see whether those 10 lines of code would work.’’
Kay spent the two weeks thinking from 4:00 to 8:00 a.m. each day and then discussing his ideas with Ingalls. When Kay was done, Ingalls coded the first Smalltalk in Basic on the Nova 800, because that was the only language available at the time with decent debugging facilities.
“Smalltalk was of a scale that you could go out and have a pitcher of beer or two and come back, and then two people would egg each other on and do an entire system in an afternoon."—Alan Kay
Because the language was so small and simple, developing programs and even entire systems was also quite fast. “Smalltalk was of a scale that you could go out and have a pitcher of beer or two and come back, and then two people would egg each other on and do an entire system in an afternoon,” Kay said. From one of those afternoon sessions came overlapping windows.
The concept of windows had originated in Sketchpad, an interactive graphics program developed by Ivan Sutherland at MIT in the early 1960s; the Evans & Sutherland Corp. had implemented multiple windows on a graphics machine in the mid-1960s. But the first multiple overlapping windows were implemented on the Alto by PARC’s Diana Merry in 1973.
“All of us thought that the Alto display was incredibly small,” said Kay, “and it’s clear that you’ve got to have overlapping windows if you don’t have a large display.”
After windows came the concept of Bitblt—block transfers of data from one portion of memory to another, with no restrictions about alignment on word boundaries. Thacker, the main designer of the Alto computer, had implemented a function called CharacterOp to write characters to the Alto’s bit-mapped screen, and Ingalls extended that work to make a general graphic utility. Bitblt made overlapping windows much simpler, and it also made possible all kinds of graphics and animation tricks.
“I gave a demo in early 1975 to all of PARC of the Smalltalk system using Bitblt for menus and overlapping windows and things,” Ingalls recalled. “A bunch of people came to me after wards, saying ‘How do you do all these things? Can I get the code for Bitblt?’ and within two months those things were being used throughout PARC.”
Flashy and impressive as it was, Smalltalk-72 “was a dead end,” Tesler said. “It was ambiguous. You could read a piece of code and not be able to tell which were the nouns and which were the verbs. You couldn’t make it fast, and it couldn’t be compiled.”
The first compiled version of Smalltalk, written in 1976, marked the end of the emphasis on a language that children could use. The language was now “a mature programming environment,” Ingalls said. “We got interested in exporting it and making it widely available.”
“It’s terrible that Smalltalk-80 can’t be used by children, since that’s who Smalltalk was intended for. It fell back into data-structure-type programming instead of simulation-type programming.”—Alan Kay
The next major revision of Smalltalk was Smalltalk-8O. Kay was no longer on the scene to argue that any language should be simple enough for a child to use. Smalltalk-8O, says Tesler, went too far in the opposite direction from the earliest versions of Smalltalk: “It went to such an extreme to make it compilable, uniform, and readable, that it actually became hard to read, and you definitely wouldn’t want to teach it to children.”
Kay, looking at Smalltalk-80, said, “It’s terrible that it can’t be used by children, since that’s who Smalltalk was intended for. It fell back into data-structure-type programming instead of simulation-type programming.”
While Kay’s group was developing a language for children of all ages, a group of artificial-intelligence researchers within PARC were improving Lisp. Lisp was brought to PARC by Warren Teitelman and Daniel G. Bobrow from Bolt, Beranek, and Newman in Cambridge, Mass., where it was being developed as a service to the ARPA community. At PARC, it was renamed Interlisp, a window system called VLISP was added, and a powerful set of programmer’s tools was developed.
In PARC’s Computer Science Laboratory, researchers were developing a powerful language for systems programming. After going through several iterations, the language emerged as Mesa—a modular language, which allowed several programmers to work on a large project at the same time. The key to this is the concept of an interface—what a module in a program does, rather than how it does it. Each programmer knows what the other modules are chartered to do and can call on them to perform their particular functions.
Another dominant feature was Mesa’s strong type-checking, which prevented programmers from using integer variables where they needed real numbers, or real numbers where they needed character strings—and prevented bugs from spreading from one module of a program to another.
These concepts have since been widely adopted as the basis of modular programming languages. “A lot of the ideas in Ada [the standard programming language of the U.S. Department of Defense] and Modula-2 came out of the programming language research done at PARC,” said Chuck Geschke, now executive vice president of Adobe Systems Inc. Modula-2, in fact, was written by computer scientist Niklaus Wirth after he spent a sabbatical at PARC.
Most people who know that a mouse is a computer peripheral think it was invented by Apple. The cognoscenti will correct them by saying that it was developed at Xerox PARC.
But the mouse in fact preceded PARC. “l saw a demonstration of a mouse being used as a pointing device in 1966,” Tesler recalled. “Doug Englehart [of SRI International Inc. in Menlo Park, Calif.] invented it.”
At PARC, Tesler set out to prove that the mouse was a bad idea. “I really didn’t believe in it,” he said. “I thought cursor keys were much better.
“We literally took people off the streets who had never seen a computer. In three or four minutes they were happily editing away, using the cursor keys. At that point I was going to show them the mouse and prove they could select text faster than with the cursor keys. Then I was going to show that they didn’t like it.
“It backfired. I would have them spend an hour working with the cursor keys, which got them really used to the keys. Then I would teach them about the mouse. They would say, ‘That’s interesting but I don’t think I need it.’ Then they would play with it a bit, and after two minutes they never touched the cursor keys again.”
“While I didn’t mind using a mouse for text manipulation, I thought it was totally inappropriate for drawing. People stopped drawing with rocks in Paleolithic times”—David Thornburg
After Tesler’s experiment, most PARC researchers accepted the mouse as a proper peripheral for the Alto. One holdout was Thornburg.
“I didn’t like the mouse,” he said. “It was the least reliable component of the Alto. I remember going into the repair room at PARC-where there was a shoebox to hold good mice and a 5O-gallon drum for bad mice. And it was expensive—too expensive for the mass market.
“While I didn’t mind using a mouse for text manipulation, I thought it was totally inappropriate for drawing. People stopped drawing with rocks in Paleolithic times, and there’s a reason for that: rocks aren’t appropriate drawing implements; people moved on to sticks.”
Thornburg, a metallurgist who had been doing materials re search at PARC, began work on alternative pointing devices. He came up with a touch tablet in 1977 and attached it to an Alto. Most people who looked at it said, “That’s nice, but it’s not a mouse,” Thornburg recalls. His touch tablet did eventually find its way into a product: the Koalapad, a home-computer peripheral costing less than $100.
“It was clear that Xerox didn’t want to do anything with it,”Thornburg said. “They didn’t even file for patent protection, so I told them that I’d like to have it. After a lot of horsing around, they said OK.”
Thornburg left Xerox in 1981, worked at Atari for a while, then started a company—now Koala Technologies Inc.—with another ex-PARC employee to manufacture and market the Koalapad.
Meanwhile, though Tesler accepted the need for a mouse as a pointing device, he wasn’t satisfied with the way SRI’s mouse worked. “You had a five-key keyset for your left hand and a mouse with three buttons for your right hand. You would hit one or two keys with the left hand, then point at something with the mouse with the right hand, and then you had more buttons on the mouse for confirming your commands. It took six to eight keystrokes to do a command, but you could have both hands going at once. Experts could go very fast.”
The SRI system was heavily moded. In a system with modes, the user first indicates what he wants to do-delete, for example. This puts the system in the delete mode. The computer then waits for the user to indicate what he wants deleted. If the user changes his mind and tries to do something else, he can’t unless he first cancels the delete command.
In a modeless system, the user first points to the pan of the dis play he wants to change, then indicates what should be done to it. He can point at things all day, constantly changing his mind, and never have to follow up with a command.
To make things even more complicated for the average user (but more efficient for programmers), the meaning of each key varied, depending on the mode the system was in. For example, “J” meant scroll and “I” meant insert. If the user tried to “insert,” then to “scroll” without canceling the first command, he would end up inserting the letter “J” in the text.
Larry Tesler set out to test the interface on a nonprogrammer.... Apparently nobody had done that before.
Most programmers at PARC liked the SRI system and began adapting it in their projects. “There was a lot of religion around that this was the perfect user interface,” said Tesler. “Anytime anybody would suggest changing it, they were greeted with glares.”
Being programmers, they had no trouble with the fact that the keypad responded to combinations of keys pressed simultaneously that represented the alphabet in binary notation. Tesler set out to test the interface on a nonprogrammer. He taught a newly hired secretary how to work the machine and observed her learning process. “Apparently nobody had done that before,’’ he said. ‘‘She had a lot of trouble with the mouse and the keyset.”
Tesler argued for a simpler user interface. “Just about the only person who agreed with me was Alan Kay,” he said. Kay sup ported Tesler’s attempt to write a modeless text editor on the Alto.
Although most popular computers today use modeless software, with the Macintosh being probably the best example, Tesler’s experiments didn’t settle the issue.
“MacWrite, Microsoft Word, and the Xerox Star all started out as projects that were heavily moded,” Tesler said, “because programmers couldn’t believe that a user interface could be flexible and useful and extensible unless it had a lot of m des. The proof that this wasn’t so didn’t come by persuasion, it came through customers complaining that they liked a dinky modeless editor with no features better than the one that had all the features they couldn’t figure out how to use.”
As anyone who has sat through a business meeting knows, the office of today includes graphics as well as text. In 1970, Shoup, who is now chairman of Aurora Systems Inc., started working at PARC on new ways to create and manipulate images digitally in the office of the future. His research started the field of television graphics and won Emmy awards for both him and Xerox.
“It quickly became clear that if we wanted to do a raster scan system, we ought to do it compatible with television standards so that we could easily obtain monitors and cameras and videotape recorders,” Shoup recalled. In early 1972 he built some simple hardware to generate antialiased lines, and by early 1973 the system, called Superpaint, was completed.
It was the first complete paint system with an 8-bit frame buffer anywhere, recalled Alvy Ray Smith, who worked with Superpaint at PARC and is soon to be vice president and chief technical officer of Pixar Inc., San Rafael, Calif.; it was also the first system to use several graphics aids: color lookup tables for simple animation, a digitizing tablet for input, a palette for mixing colors directly on the screen. The system also had a real-time video scanner so images of real objects could be digitized and then manipulated.
“The very first thing I did on the system was some antialiased lines and circles,” Shoup said, “because I’d written a paper on that subject and hadn’t finished the examples. But when I submitted the paper and had it accepted, the machine that was going to be used to do the examples wasn’t built yet.”
By mid-1974, Superpaint had been augmented by additional software that allowed it to perform all kinds of tricks, and Smith, who had just completed doctoral work in a branch of mathematics known as cellular automata theory, was hired to help put the machine through its paces. He used Superpaint to make a videotape called “Vidbits” that was later shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Six months later his initial contract with PARC expired and was not renewed. While disappointed, Smith was not surprised, as he had found that not everyone there shared his enthusiasm for painting with a computer.
“The color graphics lab was a long narrow room with seven doors into it,” he recalled. “You had to go through it to get to a lot of other places. Most people, when they walked through, would look at the screen and stop-even the most trite stuff had never been seen before. Cycling color maps had never been seen before. But there were some people who would go through and wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t figure out how people could walk through that room and never stop and look.”
A reason aside from others’ indifference to video graphics may have contributed to Smith’s departure. One of the first times Superpaint was seen by a wide audience was in a public television show, “Supervisions,” produced by station KCET in Los Angeles. “It was just used a couple of times for little color cycling effects,” Shoup recalled. But Xerox was not amused by the unauthorized use of the system in a program.
“Bob Taylor sat with Alvy [Smith] one entire afternoon while Alvy pushed the erase button on the videotape recorder, eliminating the Xerox logo from every copy of that tape,” Shoup continued. (This was one of the tapes viewed by the committee that awarded Xerox its Emmy.)
It was the first system to use...color lookup tables for simple animation, a digitizing tablet for input, [and] a palette for mixing colors directly on the screen.
Shoup stayed at PARC, supported by Kay’s research group, while Smith moved on, armed with a National Education Association grant to do computer art. He found support for his work at the New York Institute of Technology, where he helped develop Paint, which became the basis of Ampex Video Art (AVA), and N.Y. Tech’s Images, two graphics systems still in use today.
While Shoup was alone in pursuing Superpaint at PARC, Smith wasn’t the only Superpaint addict wandering the country in search of a frame buffer. David Miller, now known as David Em, and David Difrancesco were the first artists to paint with pixels. When Em lost access to Superpaint, he set out on a year-long quest for a frame buffer that finally brought him to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Finally, in 1979, Shoup left PARC to start his own company to manufacture and market a paint system, the Aurora 100. He ac knowledges that he made no technological leaps in designing the Aurora, which is simply a commercialized second-generation version of his first-generation system at PARC.
“The machine we’re building at Aurora for our next generation is directly related to things we were thinking about seven or eight years ago at PARC,” Shoup said.
The Aurora 100 is now used by corporations to develop in house training films and presentation graphics. Today, tens of thousands of artists are painting with pixels. The 1985 Siggraph art show in San Francisco alone received 4000 entries.