[Newbies] What makes Smalltalk different

H. Hirzel hannes.hirzel at gmail.com
Tue Nov 22 18:45:12 UTC 2011

Yes, a good concise summary.

A candidate for a module an www.cnx.org. I'd like to put it there.

Bert, may I ask you to allow me to do that. The license for that web
site with e-learning modules is


On 11/22/11, Gary Dunn <garydunnhi at gmail.com> wrote:
> Well put! Please can someone with permissions capture this on our swiki?
> Gary Dunn
> Open Slate Project
> http://openslate.org
> On Nov 22, 2011 1:35 AM, "Bert Freudenberg" <bert at freudenbergs.de> wrote:
> (This is from an answer to a question on StackOverflow
> http://stackoverflow.com/questions/8222489 It might be helpful to some
> newbies on this list so I'm re-posting)
> ===================================
> Q: (paraphrased) I want to learn Smalltalk but without the baggage of an
> IDE. Just let me use my favorite text editor, that's much easier.
> A: It is not helpful to learn Smalltalk as just another language. You would
> be missing the point entirely.
> Smalltalk's graphical environment is not just an IDE. The core of the
> system is simply objects. The interface provides various ways to create
> objects and interact with them. The language is just a convenient way to
> create messages to the objects. It is secondary to the objects themselves.
> In other OO languages, you write your program, then you run it, which
> creates objects in memory. Not so in Smalltalk. You create objects in
> memory (e.g. class objects) and then send messages to e.g. add methods. But
> a class object is only created once, not every time you "run your program".
> There is no such thing as "your program", in fact. There is no "main". It's
> just a world of objects, some longer-lived, some temporary. In fact, in the
> system there are objects that were created 30 years ago. Literally. The
> objects are just frozen to disk as a memory dump (a file which we call
> "image") and unfrozen later (possibly on a different machine).
> That image, the world of objects, is the primary artifact in Smalltalk.
> There is a sources file, yes, but that's just a database of text snippets
> to not take up so much RAM. You cannot edit this file by hand (objects in
> the image use absolute file offsets into the sources file). You cannot
> re-create the system from the sources file - the system was bootstrapped a
> long time ago and from then on only modified.
> It's true that superficially the Smalltalk GUI looks just like another IDE.
> No coincidence - Eclipse was originally written by Smalltalkers in
> Smalltalk. But there is the crucial difference that in regular IDEs you
> just manipulate text files. A text editor is a valid alternative for that.
> In Smalltalk, the GUI manipulates objects in memory. A text editor can not
> do that.
> And as for what Smalltalk to use, I would recommend Squeak. Very friendly
> community, very nice environment, and subscribing to the original Smalltalk
> vision of creating a great personal computing environment for everyone.
> - Bert -
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