The man whose work helped inspire the Mac, esteemed HP Labs fellow Alan Kay has been recognized with one of the highest honours in the technology industry, the Kyoto Prize.

Kay, who once said: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it", received the 2004 Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology from the Inamori Foundation. The Foundation said he was "chosen for creating the concept of personal computing and contributing to its realization."

It's the third major science award Kay has received this year. He received the Association of Computing Machinery's 2003 Turing Award for leading the team that invented Smalltalk (the first object-oriented programming model).

In February, Kay and three former colleagues from Xerox PARC – Butler Lampson, Robert Taylor and Charles Thacker – shared the National Academy of Engineering's 2004 Charles Stark Draper Prize for developing a networked personal computer.

Illustrious scientist and renaissance man

Now 64-years old the scientist evidently has an illustrious career behind him: in the late 1960s he helped design the forerunner of the Internet called ARPAnet.

He was also influential in developing the concept of personal computing and that of the notebook in the shape of Dynabook. He also invented the Window-based user interface you find in modern PCs.

In 1970 he joined Xerox' Palo Alto Research Center: PARC. He led several groups there that took his ideas and extended them into the famed Xerox Alto.

The Xerox Alto inspired Apple CEO Steve Jobs and his colleagues at Apple to create the Mac – the first persional computer with a graphical user interface.

While at Xerox Kay and his teams also developed Ethernet, laser printing and network client-servers.

In 1980 he joined Atari as chief scientist and was a Fellow at Apple between 1984 and 1996. He has also been a Disney Fellow.

Dr. Kay holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering (computer sciences) from the University of Utah. His Ph.D. was awarded for the development of the first graphical object-oriented personal computer. He earned undergraduate degrees in mathematics and molecular biology from the University of Colorado. Kay is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society of Arts. A former professional jazz guitarist, composer and theatrical designer, he is now an amateur classical pipe-organist.

The Kyoto Prize carries a cash gift of about $450,000, a 20-karat gold medal and a diploma. The Foundation was founded 1984 by Kazuo Inamori, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera.