Alan kay in his paper, The power of Context pdf link, page 8, enumerates some of his motivations for dynamic objects. Some of the influences like Paper on lisp, early paper on the design of functional computers, Moleculer biology of the gene (he envisioned objects as biological cells) are somewhat clear and I see the point. However, some of the influences like

  1. Paul Halmos, Finite-dimensional Vector Spaces,(Clue: Algebra in the Large, he says). I want to know how has algebra influenced dynamic objects? Are there any examples of algebraic structure in the objects?

  2. Carnap, Rudolf, Meaning and Necessity, A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic. How's modal logic helpful in defining dynamic objects. How was this work helpful?

  3. Kleinrock, Leonard, Communication Nets: stochastic message flow and delay. It seems like this work influenced early implementations of smalltalk. Has it git something to do with analogy between messages. Any explanation would be really helpful.

In short, I want to understand how these works influenced design of dynamic objects as envisioned by Alan Kay. I'd really appreciate any help on this. I understand that viewpoints are highly subjective,but I'd also appreciate new insights/guesses as to how you think these works would have helped.

1 Answer 1


here's my take on that.

  1. Vector space well to start with, vectors are all different but share same attributes and operations which makes me think of instances of some class. Also, there are linear maps and transformations which somehow bring to mind an image of an object changing its state while keeping its identity.

  2. Modal logic that one seems tough. Best I can come up with is probably mapping modals qualifying the truth of a judgment to subclass-superclass concept. Judgement "John is happy" maps to superclass API "isHappy": John.isHappy() returns "somehow". isHappy can be qualified in subclass with modality "usually" ParticularKindOfJohn.isHappy() returns "usually". In other subclass, it can be qualified using other modality: OtherParticularKindOfJohn.isHappy() returns "never"

  3. Communication Nets: stochastic message flow and delay that one almost immediately clicked with the concept of Smalltalk objects exchanging messages


  • Hi gnat, assuming the OpenID credentials are the same on all your accounts, you should see a link on your accounts page to associate your Programmers.SE account with the others.
    – user8
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 23:42
  • thanks Mark - trying this now. That link to associate you mention - I assume it's the red button Copy Programmers login credentials... - please correct if I misunderstood
    – gnat
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  • you need to make sure your Programmers.SE OpenID matches the one you have on Stack Overflow. If it does, you should see your Stack Overflow account flair on that page and a button that says "Associate with other accounts".
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    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 0:32
  • so far I failed to trigger desired merge. Re-checked the OpenID - it's the same for both accounts. In case if that matters, profile fields all seem to match, including email. Several times tried cleaning associations and forcing copy from both accounts - looks like dead end. Could you please manually merge programmers.stackexchange.com/users/31260/gnat and stackoverflow.com/users/839601/gnat - these two are accounts I failed to merge
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 11:11
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    @gnat - it might be quicker to e-mail the team - use the "contact" link at the foot of the page. Your Programmers account isn't associated with the rest of your accounts and there's nothing we can do as moderators. A developer should be able to help you out.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 12:49

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