Alan Cooper

Alan Cooper agreed this weekend to keynote the upcoming patterns & practices Summit in Mountain View. Alan's an old friend who's going to talk about creating "software that doesn't suck". Which reminds me of a story...

Seven or eight years ago at VSLive/SF I did a session on good and bad UI design. And Alan did a keynote there on software development. Of course, Alan's best known as a UI guy whereas most people would consider me to be a software developer. (Note: This was back in the day before I was the conference chair and had some editorial control over the content! <smile>)

So Alan's going down the huge escalator into the "bunker" conference area at the Marriott...he sees me on the other side going up and hollers "what the hell do you know about UI design?" I yell back "about as much as you know about developing software!". We grin at each other.

The interesting part is...I'd been doing UI protoyping and testing at MS (as a contractor) for more than 5 years. I'd spent many days in the usability labs watching guinea pigs (er, “customers”) navigate my creations. I was the tech editor on Microsoft cheif UI designer Virginia Howlett's book. And a session I did on UI design at one of the early TechEds was so popular that they had to schedule a second presentation to accomodate the overflow. Question: When was the last time you saw a UI session at a Microsoft conference? Answer: Chris Tobey (when at Microsoft his alias was "christ") talking about Windows 98 UI at the 1998 Microsoft PDC in Denver. Historic Footnote: Remember how "Search" used to be "Find"? Did you ever get used to doing <Ctrl>+<Esc>, <F>,<F> to bring up the "Find" dialog? And did you happen to notice that <Ctrl>+<Esc>, <F> still takes you to "Search"? Let's just call that my small contribution to society. <grin>

So...back to Alan, the "Father of VB" (written, in part, by legendary programmer Michael Geary who later wrote Adobe Type Manager and was - briefly - hassled by Microsoft legal for "stealing" their code). In those heady days for VB, there were actually a few people on the VB team at Microsoft who resented Alan's notoriety. In those early years we did a Midnight Madness at VBITS (precursor to VSLive) that featured a Microsoft-run "VB Jeopardy" game patterned (meaning "copied") from the popular TV show. One of the answers was "The father of VB", and you can imagine the audience’s consternation when the question “who is Alan Cooper?” was deemed WRONG by Microsoft, who insisted it was a guy named Len Oorthies (spelling?) who was the original PM.

Well…LenO has long faded from view, but I’m happy to say that Alan is as feisty as ever. And I can’t wait to hear his “Ending the Death March” keynote next month at our Summit.

1 Comment

Comments have been disabled for this content.