Yale University professor David Gelernter is not a typical computer scientist. Most days, he sits at an easel near a wide window in his Woodbridge, Conn., house and paints. Two parrots fly around the house, which is filled with stacks of books and papers. The birds screech sporadically and one pops up from behind the couch to say "Peekaboo." There are no gadgets in sight, aside from a desktop computer barely visible in an adjacent office.
"I hate computers, and I refuse to play with them," he says. "Any success I've had in computing is because I fit so badly in the field." He thinks that using computers should be more logical. "I want software to work in 30 seconds," he says.
It is this desire that led Mr. Gelernter to start Lifestreams, a new company that aims to make desktops more user-friendly and the stream of information more intuitive. Years ago, a first try at commercializing his ideas ended in failure, but Mr. Gelernter is used to recovering from setbacks. In 1993, he was the target of a mail bomb from the Unabomber. The explosion disfigured his right hand and blinded his right eye.
Lifestreams, which is based on software originally developed by Mr. Gelernter and his colleagues at Yale, is set to launch in late January. It will organize computer documents, emails and other information as a narrative stream, with a look similar, for example, to the flow of CD covers in Apple's iTunes. Here the contents will be photos, videos, real-time chats and word documents shared within a certain group, such as a bridal party or a youth soccer league. Mr. Gelernter's personal slogan for the company is "by humans for humans."