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

Alejandro F. Reimondo aleReimondo at
Fri May 12 20:53:53 UTC 2006


If you rename Smalltalk...
It will be smalltalk.
Smalltalk is the "last language", to put it in the terms
 you all love (to name it a language :).

Why Smalltalk is "the last XXXXX" ?
 (place language, environment, ambient
  instead of XXXXX)

To work "in" Smalltalk is to work
 preserving the IDENTITY of the XXXXX.
You can change any piece, but the change
 will do the system more or less stabe...
 but will be the SAME system.
It preserves it's identity.
And preservation of the identity of
 the hole is preceived as evolution,
 defines an history.. and do not require
 to be "redefined" as languages.

A language (as any formal system),
 when changed defines a NEW language.
A new language because rules defines a closed
 system, and if you change a rule, you defines
 another system without any relation, in practice,
 with the old.
Languages are born to be replaced.
Smalltalk can be changed and if it survives the
 change, the change become part of it
 but the XXXX preserve it's identity
 (the same way anObject preserves identity)

A language exists if there is any person
 that use it's syntax.
Smalltalk exists if there is at least an image runing.

The vertical propagation of smalltalk habbits
 defines a "formula" that limits smalltalk

The importance of marketing for smalltalk will
 be proved after one or two observable cases.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Hernan Wilkinson" <hernan.wilkinson at>
To: "The general-purpose Squeak developers list"
<squeak-dev at>
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2006 12:12 PM
Subject: Re: Smalltalk: Requiem or Resurgence? {Dr. Dobb's Journal
(05/06/06) Chan, Jeremy}

> Hi,
>     I could not read the whole thread, but I will give my opinion on
> this topic. Sorry if I say something somebody already said.
>     I think the problem with Smalltalk is not technical, nor a problem
> of education either. We all now that Smalltalk has nothing to envy from
> Java, C++, .Net and the like, but the other way around. We all know that
> Smalltalk has a great VM, has a great environment and tools and no other
> main stream language can compete with Smalltalk on this features.
>     Smalltalk can be use in large project (it is not true that only
> scale in small projects, we have a project with 7155 classes and works
> great!... I can not image a Java project of 7155 files...) and I see
> that Smalltalk is not difficult to learn. Every time we contract a
> junior programmer, they feel fine with the language in a period of two
> weeks... so, the syntax is not a problem, not the class library or the
> debugger, etc.
>     The problem with Smalltalk is a MARKETING problem, no technical. We,
> people of the computer field, like to have new things all the time... we
> like to have new widgets like mp3 players, palms, cell phones, smaller
> and faster laptops, etc. "New" it is almost a synonym of "Better", but
> more important, "new" means "cool".... Because of this, most programmer
> think that  new languages are better, just because they are new they are
> "more cool". So, the problem with Smalltalk is that it is OLD.
>     Let's take Ruby as example, is it better than Smalltalk? We all now
> that it is not.... Perl? no... Phyton?, no... What's the difference?
> They are newer... Now Ruby seems to be getting a great attention... why?
> just because Ruby On Rails?. I believe Ruby On Rails is helping to get
> the attention, but Ruby is a "new" language (at least, it does not have
> a long history), and that helps, and compared with Smalltalk, it is
>     The word Smalltalk has a history, and almost everybody relates that
> word to not sucessful histories (I believe, they do it wrongly). Every
> time you say "we use Smalltalk", people ask "Isn't that a language for
> university only?", "Isn't that language old? how does it integrate to
> databases? can you do web apps with Smalltalk?", etc.... So, I have came
> to a sadly conclusion, Smalltalk will never be a main stream language
> because it is OLD.
>     Therefore, my CRAZY suggestion is to create a NEW language, a new
> language that we can name it "COOL" (because it is cool ;-) ), but this
> new language is, at the end, Smalltalk... but nobody has to know it!
> nobody has to relate it to Smalltalk because if they do it, it will
> loose all its "momentum"... With a NEW language, that it is COOL at the
> same time, and of course, with a little bit of help from one big
> company, COOL will be widely accepted... and nobody will care about its
> technical aspects as  most people don't do with the current main-stream
> languages.
>     Anyway, just an opinion...
>     Bye, Hernan.
> Ralph Johnson wrote:
> > 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
> >
> >
> >
> -- 
> ______________________________
> Lic. Hernán A. Wilkinson
> Gerente de Desarrollo y Tecnología
> Mercap S.R.L.
> Tacuari 202 - 7mo Piso - Tel: 54-11-4878-1118
> Buenos Aires - Argentina
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