Smalltalk: Requiem or Resurgence? {Dr. Dobb's Journal (05/06/06) Chan, Jeremy}

stéphane ducasse ducasse at
Thu May 11 12:47:09 UTC 2006

I think that avi and colin are giving us a lesson: seaside, MC, OB
We should not let them alone invent the future!


> People keep mentioning technical aspects of Smalltalk as being the
> ones that will make people want to use it.  Technologists are
> interested in technology, so this is not surprising.  However, people
> are more important than technology.  If Smalltalk is going to have a
> resurgence, the people who know and love Smalltalk will have to make
> it happen.  It isn't going to happen automatically.  Jeremy Chan is
> right to emphasize people problems like "no big company is pushing
> it".
> Every tool has its stengths and weaknesses.  To make Small prosper,
> people should use it where it works and not use it where it doesn't
> work.  Smalltalk is fantastic in small groups of motivated
> programmers.  It is not so good in large groups with high turnover.
> People seem to get excited about large Smalltalk projects, and to long
> for the days of ten years ago when there were 100 person projects.  In
> my opinion, those projects were never run well, and were probably all
> a mistake.  Many of them were successful in the sense of bringing a
> product to market, but all the ones I saw could have been done faster
> and cheaper with a smaller team.
> Smalltalk fans ought to go start companies.  Smalltalk has lots of
> advantages in a startup, where it is important to get something
> running quickly and where compatibility with existing systems is not
> so important.  It doesn't work as well in a big company, where it is
> iimportant to play it safe and there are existing standards and lots
> of  existing systems.
> Smalltalk is a wonderful language both for teaching and for research.
> I've always wondered why it did so poorly in universities.  I think
> that one of the reasons is that it is hard to learn.  There are too
> many things about Smalltalk that are new.  The language is easy, but
> the class libraries are large, and the programming environment is
> different from what people are used to.  People are not used to "live
> objects" and do not know how to take advantage of them.  The class
> library is not modularized, so it is hard for newcomers to see what to
> learn first.
> Smalltalk is pretty easy to learn if you are pair programming with an
> expert whose main goal is for you to learn, not to build a system.  It
> is hard to learn from a book and from experimentation.  I taught
> myself Smalltalk 20 years ago and have since taught it to a thousand
> or so students.  I tell my students that they all will learn Smalltalk
> faster than I did, because they will have a teacher.  This is not 100%
> true, since some students didn't try very hard.  But it is pretty easy
> to learn when you have a teacher who knows Smalltalk well.  One of the
> problems with getting it used in schools is that somebody has to teach
> the teachers.
> So, if you want to help Smalltalk spread, sit down and program with  
> a newbie!
> -Ralph Johnson

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