Of mice and pirates

I had always understood patents to be about the mechanism of the device, not it’s effect. E.g., a particular mouse trap design, not the idea of catching mice.

But what do I know? Squeak blogger Torsten turned me on to this article about some courtroom pirates suing Apple over the User Interface in their latest operating system release. The original patent was for an old Xerox UI implemented in Interlisp-D, and now owned by a holding company.

Apple’s Tiger operating system isn’t implemented in Lisp. Do you suppose the lawyers are basing their argument on Greenspun’s Tenth Rule?

Brie Demos

I gave a demo of Brie at the OOPSLA Croquet workshop in October, and Julian gave one a couple weeks ago at C5. Alas, no video, but the Brie papers are here and here.

This terrific video of the Alternate Reality Kit was made at Xerox PARC in 1987. So, of course, it’s not actually Brie, but it does give a lot of the feel of what we’re going for. There are a few UI differences and the ARK is only 2D, but the main thing is that Brie is synchronously collaborative, and therefore eminently shareable.

Another related thing (without a cool video) was PARC’s Thing Lab.

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Back to the Future

In working on Brie, I had been vaguely aware that the ‘Self’ language was similarly based on copying prototypes rather than instantiating classes. So I kind of went ‘yeah, whatever’ when Rick McGeer and others told me to check up on this ’80’s Xerox PARC project.

Wow. I hadn’t realized that Self was so close in both the domain and the solution spaces. If there’s interest I’ll try to produce a comparison later, but for now, check out the Self site and, in particular, this paper.