I’m a Principal Scientist in the Computer Science Lab (CSL) at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC; formerly Xerox PARC). I also manage the Ubiquitous Computing research area here. My research centers around the infrastructure and systems concerns around building novel user interfaces, with a special interest in collaborative and “richly graphical” systems.  I’m also interested in distributed object systems, the role of film craft and comic art in interaction design, and am something of a programming language dilettante. 

Broadly, you could sum up my main research interests as looking at how aspects of distributed systems can “show through” and manifest themslves as part of user experience, and, in turn, the implications of that for the design of distributed systems.

Books My book Core Jini, Second Edition is on the shelves now. This book provides a look at the philosophy behind Jini, its programming models, and its APIs. The book has a ton of sample code, including several complete services (a printing service, event mailbox, leasing service, and more), and a foreward by Bill Joy. Click on the cover image to jump to the book’s page on Amazon.com.

If you’ve already got Core Jini, or are just Jini-curious, please visit my Jini Planet page, which has updates and bug fixes for the book, a more detailed overview, tips on troubleshooting Jini apps, pointers to downloadable code, and a few articles. Let me know what you think!



The salt mines My main project these days is Speakeasy, an infrastructure for ad hoc connectivity and interoperability in ubiquitous computing environments. Most network middleware systems (CORBA, Web Services, etc.) require clients and services to have specific knowledge of each other, explicitly coded into them. Speakeasy is a different approach to network communication, based on a small set of meta-interfaces that allow services to dynamically extend the behaviors of their clients. Clients and services can communicate with each other without having to have explicit knowledge of each others' interfaces.

Before that, I worked on the Placeless Documents System, which is—in a nutshell—a “radically extensible” document management system. That makes it sound far more boring than it actually is. A better description might be that it’s a system that manages a collection of distributed information sources by overlaying a prototype-based object system on them. I’ve also been working on Flatland, a framework for creating pen-based applications for large surfaces like whiteboards (sorry, no page yet). One of my main projects used to be time travel (sort of) and its applications to collaboration. I’ve also worked on a number of other projects at PARC, including Bayou, a weakly-consistent replicated data store for applications with sporadic network connectivity.

I try to keep up with the writing

I’ve been lucky enough to have some extraordinary interns since I’ve been at PARC. Roy Rodenstein (was at Georgia Tech, now at the MIT Media Lab) worked with me on some cool UI stuff that hasn’t been published yet. Takeo Igarashi (University of Tokyo) has been working with me on some nifty pen-based UI work that should see light of day soon. And Michael Kaminsky (was at Berkeley, now at MIT) has been hacking the Microsoft Actimates Barney doll to make it do our evil bidding.

In case you’ve tracked down this page because you want to offer me a job sitting on the beach in Rio or someplace, sipping wine and finding creative ways to relieve you of your cash burden, please let me know. By the way, my resume says nothing about my qualifications in Portugese, viticulture, or financial consulting. So you’ll just have to trust me: I’m the man for the job. 

If you want to know what I really do, click here for my PARC-internal homepage (which, of course, will only work if you’re inside PARC).


Past lives I got doctorized at Georgia Tech in the venerable discipline of computer science.  Click here for my old homepage, which has been on ice since I left.  There I worked on a lot of different systems, including Intermezzo, a toolkit for building “context-aware” collaborative applications; Mercator, a system that lets visually-impaired people work with the X Window System;  Montage, an extensible, pre-MIME, multimedia mailer; a FORTRAN compiler for the Motorola DSP56001 signal processor; a set of hacks, err, enhancements to the X Window System to support punch-through video;  and a bunch of other stuff.  I did Ph.D. and undergrad specializations in experimental psychology, and also did a fair amount of microcontroller-based design work in the EE department, although the latter seems to have been largely repressed.  I also occasionally taught classes on VAX assembler, played on the university’s lacrosse team, learned to cook, never learned to play the banjo, and was a DJ at WREK, the greatest radio station on Planet Earth. 

In earlier past lives, I worked at SunSoft, Sun Microsystems Labs, and the now-defunct Olivetti Research Center (all on internships), and a bunch of places as a consultant. 

Going all the way back, I was born in Fredricksburg, Virginia, and grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I’m a leo and my favorite color is blue. 

If you’re looking for information about stuff that I used to do, chances are you’re interested in either Intermezzo or Mercator.  Click on the links and I’ll channel these projects from beyond the grave.


All work and no play makes Keith a dull boy I like to cook a lot.  Especially if it involves potential loss of life and limb, or obscene amounts of oil

I just recently got back from a trip to Turkey and Eastern Europe with my grad school compadre Paul Curtis.

I’m probably in some government file someplace because I ordered the Roswell Report online. You can have a file on yourself too.  Just click here.  I work at PARC, where we actually get to use a lot of the technology that our government got from the small greys in the abductee-for-flying-saucer swap that followed Roswell.  I also encountered evidence of alien visitation on my trip to Eastern Europe (see above). 

I’m also a student of Freemason-inspired conspiracy, but my friend Paul Dourish is much more knowledgeable about that stuff than I am.  If you want a primer, read Foucault’s Pendulum (Umberto Eco), or Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln).  Both of these are long reads, but well worth it.  I guess you can skip them if you want the short version, because it all comes back to the aliens and the Vatican anyway.  The Freemasons have recently got themselves a web site, but it’s obviously a ruse as it has no pertinent information about the aliens. 

Raccoons are my favorite animal.  Giant squids are a close second though. 

I like to read a lot.  Recent reads include The Sotweed Factor (John Barth), A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy O’Toole), Pale Fire, again (Vladimir Nabokov, and it’s just as good the second time around), Towing Jehovah (James Morrow), Possession (A.S. Byatt), Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), and Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut). 

The world is blessed that I have so little musical talent that I generally never touch a musical instrument.  Nevertheless, I listen to a lot of stuff.  My current top-shelf musical selections are the Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson, the Crumb soundtrack, Information (by Toenut, a great Atlanta band), Puta’s Fever (Mano Negra, a great French band), Rollin’ (Rebirth Brass Band), Passage in Time (Dead Can Dance),  Bone Machine (Tom Waits), Stratosphere Boogie (Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant:  great early speed-death-country), Whip-Smart (Liz Phair), and just about any damned thing ever recorded by James Brown, the Pixies, Patsy Cline, or Etta James.

“A day without okra is like a day without sunshine.”
W. Keith Edwards
Palo Alto Research Center
3333 Coyote Hill Road
Palo Alto, California  94304
tel: +1 (650) 812-4405
fax: +1 (650) 812-4471