Mar. 23, 2019

The following quote is so good that no commentary can improve upon it. The full interview from which it is taken is of course a very worthwhile read, even though this is the highlight. You can do so over at Cabinet Magazine.

In 1979, when I was working at IBM, I wrote an internal memo lambasting the Apple Lisa, which was Apple’s first attempt to adapt Xerox PARC technology, the graphical user interface, into a desktop PC. I was then working on the development of APL2, a nested array, algorithmic, symbolic language, and I was committed to the idea that what we were doing with computers was making languages that were better than natural languages for procedural thought. The idea was to do for whole ranges of human thinking what mathematics has been doing for thousands of years in the quantitative arrangement of knowledge, and to help people think in more precise and clear ways. What I saw in the Xerox PARC technology was the caveman interface, you point and you grunt. A massive winding down, regressing away from language, in order to address the technological nervousness of the user. Users wanted to be infantilized, to return to a pre-linguistic condition in the using of computers, and the Xerox PARC technology’s primary advantage was that it allowed users to address computers in a pre-linguistic way.