Huge amount of personality and a long-standing relationship with every topic and person brought up. I'm happy I got to see it. I hope to personally be able to talk about modern equivalents of such amazing topics in the future.
Great voice, great topic, great personality (at least what you can ascertain from a presentation. Worth a listen/viewing.
They showcase delightfully a way of understanding and writing software, a kind of down-to-Earth simplicity aesthetics that is usually ditched in favor of sophistication.
I believe we're mostly past the point of favoring such philosophy (the Go programming language being maybe the most recent attempt, only partially successful at it), as it has fallen short of what the world demands from software, but it remains a very valuable influence.
Totally agreed. I cut my programming teeth on UPE and the K&R C book (2nd, ANSI edition), among others. I try to model the command-line tools I write on the style shown in those two books (Kernighan is a co-author of both); being doing that for a long time. Here's an example, a tutorial I wrote for IBM developerWorks - I mentioned it in an HN thread a while ago:
>They showcase delightfully a way of understanding and writing software, a kind of down-to-Earth simplicity aesthetics that is usually ditched in favor of sophistication.
>I believe we're mostly past the point of favoring such philosophy (the Go programming language being maybe the most recent attempt, only partially successful at it), as it has fallen short of what the world demands from software, but it remains a very valuable influence.
Right, and The Go Programming Language book has Kernighan as a co-author too.
Not to disagree, but what you can't see from this lecture is that Rob Pike is... very opinionated.
For example: http://harmful.cat-v.org/software/dynamic-linking/ and http://harmful.cat-v.org/cat-v/
I think there would be a lot of value in capturing a "History of..." type series from Rob Pike (Alongside other greats).
There is one similar to what I am referring called Web of Stories where they did this with Donald Knuth.
The fact that I can get several sessions going on at once, with interactive data, is fascinating - and all over a relatively slow serial data link too.
What are some of the modern equivalent of such places?
I can think of Boston Dynamics.
What fundamental research are they pumping money into, regardless of imminent commercial promise? What set Bell Labs apart was the level of fudnamental "Well, we have no idea where this will go, but we can afford to throw some of our monopoly money at it" environment.
Microsoft also has a long legacy of funding a large variety of CS research.
They're far from the only ones doing good CS research at MS; they're just the first that came to mind.
What about transistors? Don't we use them today?
The vast majority of people in the companies you listed are doing work that has nowhere near the density of interestingness that happened in Xerox Parc, for example. There might be individual departments in those companies that are comparable -- in Microsoft Research perhaps, and a sibling comment points out Alpha Go.
Anyway, the point is: Working at Alphabet or Intel or any of these is nothing like working at Xerox Parc, unless you happen to be in a very special place within those companies. But then, such special places are bound to exist elsewhere as well, in particular in small startups that are doing genuinely interesting things.
Re: other modern equivalents - would free software, in general, count? We get to observe first hand, tinker-with, talk-to-creators-of, and contribute-to some of the heaviest-lifting software ever. Linux and BSDs, MySQL, Postgres, Cassandra, Python, Blender... any of those, or others, and the right research paper or YouTube video or book, and there’s a good chance you can have your mind blown.
And I think the key here is the community actitute and ecosystem. The hole 'huge communities driven by the goal of creating good/the best possible technology and code' and not directly (I know big companies are in, but they still have to play the community game/rules) by comercial or political agendas.
There's nothing like it today, because the only vision you'll find in the current crop of smart+budget shops is how to make more cash from ads and/or the web.
Even at SpaceX, the getting-to-Mars vision is more than fifty years old.
PARC was about enhancing human creativity, cognition, and potential, and everything else came from that.
Not only is no one is working in that space today, but all the big smart+budget shops are more likely to pollute that space than contribute to it.
I have doubts about its commercial viability, but Magic Leap seems pretty ambitious. Microsoft has been exploring all kinds of exotic technologies, some of which make it into production (kinect, hololens) and some of which don't (the original 'surface'). Alphabet has a bunch of moonshots that sound like vanity projects to me but if even one of them works out it may change the world (Waymo seems closest). Even the much-maligned Google Glass is a preview of the future.
It sounds like your standard for creativity and vision requires rewinding time to a more naive state. Peter Norton made a fortune by selling software that would undelete files. At the time it was amazing!
Rob Pike 2018 — on average i got two out of three words and had to spend mental effort on interpolating — that was painful.