Kent Beck

I first discovered patterns as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon. Many of the students in my freshman dorm (accurate nickname "Gonads") were in the School of Architecture. Since I had been drawing goofy house plans since I was six or seven, they pointed me in the direction of Christopher Alexander. I read all of The Timeless Way of Building standing up in the university bookstore over the course of several months.

I had been working at Tektronix for a year and a half when I came across Alexander again. I found a battered old copy of Notes on the Synthesis of Form in Powell's. Alexander's excoriation of methodologists in the introduction to the second edition resonated with my biases, leading me to Timeless Way again. It seemed everything he didn't like about architects, I didn't like about software engineers. I convinced Ward Cunningham that we were onto something big.

Ward and I were consulting with a group that was having trouble designing a user interface. We decided, in Ward's VW Vanagon on the way over, to try out the pattern stuff we'd been studying. Alexander said the occupiers of a building should design it, so we had the users of the system design the interface. Ward came up with a five pattern language that helped them take advantage of Smalltalk's strengths and avoid its weaknesses:

We were amazed at the (admittedly spartan) elegance of the interface they designed. We reported the results of this experiment at OOPSLA 87 in Orlando. We talked patterns until we were blue in the face, but without more concrete patterns nobody was signing up.

Fast forward to OOPSLA 91 in Phoenix. Bruce Anderson held a workshop "Towards an Architecture Handbook". I was pretty vocal about what I thought patterns were all about. This was where I learned about Erich Gamma's Design Patterns, Wolfgang Pree's work, and where Ralph Johnson and I came up with the usage patterns for HotDraw.

In August 1993, Grady Booch and I sponsored a workshop about patterns at a resort high (I mean breath-suckingly high) in the Rockies. Ward, Ralph, Jim Coplien, Ken Auer, Hal Hildebrand, Grady, and I spent three days exploring "generativity", the idea that patterns don't merely exist, they also create the thing they describe. We had an amazing experience designing an office building there at 9000 ft., leading to the formation of the Hillside Group. Our goal is to promote communication to and through computers by giving users a sense of mastery of their environment. Patterns form our first strategy for putting computers at the mercy of their users, and not the other way around.

I am writing the Smalltalk Best Practices Pattern Language, recording solutions to most of the common problems facing professional Smalltalk developers.

I own and operate First Class Software, Inc. I work for myself so I can better balance the professional, personal, and family parts of my life. Patterns are still developing as a source of revenue. Mostly I consult with Smalltalk developers, and develop and publish two Smalltalk tools, Profile/V and the Object Explorer for VisualWorks.

I dream of working from a 20 acre ranch in southern Oregon, near the town of Merlin. Right now it's just a trailer and a well. Now, I live with my wife, four children, ten chickens, two button quails, and a dog amongst the redwoods in rural Santa Cruz county, just minutes from the bustling, teaming Silicon Valley.

Kent Beck
P.O. Box 226
Boulder Creek, CA
v: 408.338.4649
f: 408.338.1115