I just saw David McCarty give a lecture today at the Turing Symposium hosted here. Will Byrd suggested that I attend and I am glad that he convinced me to attend. Will described him as the epitome of what he imagines a 19th century lecturer might sound like. I was not sure what he meant by that, but when I saw him reading from notes with no slides and no blackboard, I was very excited.
Most lecturers would not be able to pull off a nice, enjoyable, informative lecture like that. Apparently, Prof. McCarty can. Most intersting to me is why a lecture with almost no visual aids can be so much more enjoyable than many other lectures I have seen which do use such aids.
Let me submit a potential reason: he was mentally accessible. That is, he did not say anything that the attentive audience could not readily grasp using their minds alone. Even when he went to the whiteboard to illustrate a concept, he remained fixed firmly in the space of the audience's mental capacity. I maintain that a great deal of complexity in our presentations can be eliminated, and I wonder if perhaps our reliance on tools does not encourage us to make our systems more complex than they need to be simply because we assume our tools will somehow make things clearer.
One day I would like to give a rich, old school lecture that people can enjoy, but I also hope that the systems I create are just as engaging and simple.