ranted about this elsewhere5 so will say no more here, except to note that this is probably the most important area where reactive systems will change our concept of programming. IS IT WORTH IT? The same could be (has been and still is) asked about interactive computing. Ask the programmer who has become accustomed to an interactive debugging system and then has to go back to octal (or hexadecimal) dumps. In the short run (and we are always in the short run) this is a difficult question, and I will take the escape given above - it is certainly worth it if our research grants will support it. In the long run I don't think there is any doubt. The costs of processing, memory, etc. are going down and although there may be ultimate limits, we are still far from them. Anything which trades off increased processing for increased ease of computer use by people will be eventually justifiable on practical grounds. Twenty years from now this question will be as outdated as it would be to ask now whether it is really worth having the computer go to the work oi accepting programs in symbolic form, since people are perfectly capable of converting them to binary numbers and entering them that way. CAN IT BE DONE WITH CURRENT TECHNOLOGY? Researchers at a number of places (including XEROX and MIT-AI) are currently designing and building "personal computers" which have a processing power far beyond standard minis or "smart terminals." In fact many of the ideas above are being implemented at Xerox. By connecting these into a simple network with shared facilities for things like specialized I-O (XGP, A-D and D-A, ARPANET, etc.) and large file storage (allowing file sharing), these computers could currently provide everything we get from a timesharing system, while opening the way to all of the advantages of reactive systems. At the moment, the cost per user (even if they were commercially available - which they aren't) would be significantly greater than an improved this-generation time sharing system of the kind being planned at SAIL. However the picture is not that clear if we look ahead the 3-5 years necessary to actually get systems running. Careful thought needs to be given to realistically assessing what hardware will (or could if we put effort into it) be available by then, and how much it will really cost. WHY SHOULD WE CARE? This paper was circulated only partially because there is a general interest in talking about systems. There are particular reasons to think seriously about these issues now. Al researchers (particularly John McCarthy) have always been at the cutting edge of new systems ideas (like timesharing, list processing, etc.). In this case I think we have even more to offer, since many of the techniques which are needed to build reactive systems are "AI techniques" involving knowledge bases, deduction, etc. We have the option of taking the viewpoint of "wiping the slate clean," thinking in terms of what we would really like to do with the new technologies, rather than incrementally building on the ideas and equipment now available. Even if the appropriate personal computers were not available right now, much of the design and debugging could be done on current systems if we had a clear idea of what we expected from the hardware. PUNCH LINE: I believe that reactive systems are "where it will be" a few years from now, and we have the choice of leading or waiting to follow. REFERENCES 1. Personal Computing by Alan Kay, Learning Group. Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages by Alan Kay, ACM National Conference, August 1975. 2. INTERLISP Reference Manual by Warren Teitelman, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. 3. The Treatment of Data Types in ELI by Ben Wegbreit, Communications of the ACM 17, 5 May 1974. 4. COPILOT: A Multiple Process Approach to Interactive Programming Systems by Daniel Carl Swinehart, Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory AIM 230. 5. Breaking the Complexity Barrier (again) by Terry Winograd, ACM Sigplan Notices 10:1 January 1975.