Can we finally realize Alan Kay’s Dynabook for $100?

Nov. 5, 2008 was the 40th anniversary since computer scientist Alan Kay devised the "Dynabook," a theoretical computing device that was aimed toward higher education and "children of all ages," writes ZDNet blogger Jason Perlow. So, how close are we to realizing Kay’s dream? Since the device’s theoretical conception in 1968 and the  publication of a paper proposing its use in 1972 when Kay was at Xerox’s PARC, many of the technologies that were in Kay’s conceptual device finally did come to fruition, such as portable and mobile computing, graphical users interfaces, and object-oriented programming languages. But has the Dynabook truly been realized? In a nutshell, no. While we’ve made tremendous strides in computing and information technology in the last 40 years, it’s hard to say that we’ve been able to go completely paperless and create the computing equivalent to the 1930s Volkswagen or the "People’s PC." And certainly, from the perspective of the Dynabook’s true purpose as an educational tool, even the One Laptop Per Child organization (of which Kay is an active consulting member) has fallen far short of its original lofty goals to getting a computer into the hands of every student at a cost of $100 per unit. "I believe we have all the technologies necessary to create the Dynabook, but to get a tablet-type eBook/computing device into the hands of every single student in the entire world … we’re going to have to try a lot harder in terms of cooperation between competing companies with their own technological agendas and put a lot of petty differences aside and provide government incentives to these companies to bring the cost of manufacturing and development down in order to finally realize Kay’s dream," Perlow writes.

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