Adele Goldberg

2022 Fellow

For the promotion and codevelopment of the Smalltalk programming environment and for advancing the use of computers in education

The Dynabook mission remains to create the medium, both the creative modeling environment and the curriculum, to upend how kids can share their understanding of how things work, and be challenged as to whether that understanding reflects an approximation to reality.

— Adele Goldberg

Most of the modern world is built using object-oriented programming languages. One of the most important of these is Smalltalk, a language first developed in the 1970s by Dan Ingalls, Adele Goldberg and Alan Kay. For many programmers, Smalltalk was a supernova in the programming universe, offering a completely new way to think about programming. Most of today’s popular applications, from mobile apps to cloud services, are now written in an object-oriented language.

Adele Goldberg is an American computer scientist who did early and important work in object-oriented programming at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the mid-1970s to late 1980s. Working with colleagues Dan Ingalls and Alan Kay, she led efforts to make more broadly known the advantages of this new programming style over the procedural programming styles then in popular use.

Adele Goldberg was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1945. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1967 from the University of Michigan, and a master’s in 1969 and PhD in 1973, both in information science from the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, entitled "Computer-Assisted Instruction: The Application of Theorem-proving to Adaptive Response Analysis,” was an early AI application that was developed by Goldberg at Stanford University.

After a brief stint as a research assistant at Stanford University and as a professor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Goldberg began working at Xerox PARC in 1973 as a research scientist, and eventually became manager of the Systems Concepts Laboratory, an expansion of the Learning Research Group where the Smalltalk language development originated. Many of the approaches developed by Goldberg embodied new theories of education and learning she had developed along with Kay in their work with kids in a local Palo Alto middle school. Most significantly, the work of this small group at PARC became ground zero for graphical user interface (GUI) concepts behind the Windows and Mac operating systems we use today.

Goldberg played a key role in promoting Smalltalk to the world outside Xerox PARC. In the August 1981 BYTE Magazine Special Issue featuring Smalltalk-80, an issue she helped write and edit, most of the world’s programming communities were first introduced to object-oriented programming. She co-wrote the seminal book on Smalltalk-80 with David Robson, another on the programming tools and user interface concepts, and a third with Kenneth Rubin on how the new technology impacts professional approaches to software development project management. In addition, she has co-edited books on visual programming and the history of personal workstations.

From 1984 to 1986, Goldberg served as President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), having previously been National Secretary and Editor-in-Chief of ACM's Computing Surveys. She received the 1987 ACM Software Systems Award with Ingalls and Kay for the development of Smalltalk, and was inducted as a Fellow of the ACM in 1994. Goldberg also received the PC Magazine 1990 Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Dobb’s Magazine Excellence in Programming Award in 2002, University of Chicago Alumni Professional Achievement Award (2012), and honorary degrees from the University of Michigan (2014) and the Open University, UK (1998).

Leaving Xerox PARC in 1988, Goldberg was one of the founders of ParcPlace Systems, a company that delivered development tools and professional training for creating Smalltalk-based enterprise applications. She served as ParcPlace Systems’ chairwoman through 1995 and CEO through 1992. She then co-founded Neometron, Inc., a consultancy pursuing new approaches to remote work group support, and AgileMind, a provider of Internet and classroom-based support for K-12 teachers and students. Goldberg is currently the deputy chair of the Science Advisory Board for HITS (Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies) in Heidelberg, Germany.

The Computer History Museum is the permanent home for Goldberg's working documents, reports, publications, and videotapes related to her work on the development of Smalltalk.



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