Design Principles Behind Smalltalk, Revisited

Blake blake at
Tue Dec 26 21:00:35 UTC 2006

On Tue, 26 Dec 2006 05:52:26 -0800, Paul D. Fernhout  
<pdfernhout at> wrote:

> In the case of both C and C++, one should not discount the wight of AT&T,

Indeed. :-)

> Well, it is also true one big issue is that an Algol-like syntax with  
> operator precedence (times over plus) is taught in K-12 school. That is  
> a big advantage for a computer language to build on that, even as that  
> precedence is arbitrary and Smalltalk is more consistent.

I learned operator precedence in programming, not in math. I'm sitting  
among college graduates--in the IT department--right now who give me a  
blank stare when I say "operator precedence". One guy knows it has to do  
with parentheses. My favorite (tongue-in-cheek) response was "That means  
the user comes first." (And as a professional programmer, my rule has  
always been: Don't count on your ability to remember operator precedence.  
C++ has, what, 17 levels of precedence?)

I guess my point is, I don't consider "operator precedence" to be a  
significant advantage. Smalltalk works the way I think; I have to actively  
(admittedly easily at this point) allow for operator precedence. And I  
don't bury my Smalltalk code in parentheses, yeah!

> And you are right on how Java seemed an easy move for C++ programmers.

The prevalence of "C-like" syntax has convinced me over the years that C  
programmers are wusses. They apparently won't try anything that doesn't  
look like something they already know.


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