Alan Bradley is a character in the 1982 film Tron, the software developer who wrote Tron, a security program and the eponymous protagonist of the film. Alan Kay, on the other hand, is a pioneer of object oriented programming and graphical user interfaces.

There's an awesomely titled page on WikiWikiWeb, Alan Kay Is Tron that claims:

The protagonist in the TronMovie is named Alan, and is fighting against the command-line oriented MasterControlProgram. This was a deliberate allegory of the life of AlanKay. Alan and one of writers of Tron (BonnieMacBird? -- Bonnie MacBird - Biography) subsequently were married.

Now, Alan Bradley is not the protagonist, but Bruce Boxleitner plays both characters, Alan Bradley and Tron, so I think we can ignore that little inconsistency. At the end of that page, there's a second claim:

Just a note here, after my recent purchase of the TRON 20th anniversary DVD I listened to the directors commentary in which they stated that while "Allen" was in fact named for Alan Kay the term TRON does not in fact refer to the acronym for Trace ON as at the time of filming they were not even aware that such a thing existed. It is actually a much less dramatic shortened version of the word elecTRON. I know it steals some of the nostalgia doesn't it?

It seems plausible, and if true it would be a great opportunity to watch Tron again for the n-th time, just to try and spot any further references to Alan Kay's work.

1 Answer 1


Yes, it's true.

From an interview with Bonnie MacBird:

Steven [Lisberger] and I met with several scientists, and the last interview of the day was Alan Kay, then still at Xerox Parc...

... On the plane on the way back, I knew that we had to have a character based on Alan Kay and I set out to write him... and to hire Alan as the technical consultant on our film...

...and the character based on Alan Kay became the creator of Tron.

... As a side note, the real life Alan Kay and I enjoyed working together and became good friends during Tron. A few years later we married, and are still married today!

From an interview with Steven Lisberger:

Everybody was doing backlit animation in the 70s, you know. It was that disco look. And we thought, what if we had this character that was a neon line, and that was our Tron warrior - Tron for electronic.


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