YASoB (was Re: some news)

Jecel Assumpcao Jr jecel at merlintec.com
Tue May 16 18:44:22 UTC 2006


> "Alan Kay" wrote: 
> "... it really bothers me that so many people on this list 
> are satisfied with Smalltalk-80 (Yikes!) 
> But that's another soapbox."
> Dear Seasoned Squeakers,
> 	I have followed this list for a while and I have a feeling
> 	that Alan Kay is not particularly fond of Smalltalk-80.
> 	I've been wondering why or maybe I got it wrong.
> 	Your thought is very much appreciated.
> 	I really hope if Alan is not too busy we will be
> 	able to hear it straight from the Dragon's mouth. ;-)

Rather than speaking for Alan, I will just quote two paragraphs from his
"Early History of Smalltalk" (there is a link to a PDF version in Stef's
Free Books page and there is a html version with some missing pictures
at http://gagne.homedns.org/~tgagne/contrib/EarlyHistoryST.html):

I will try to show where most of the influences came from and how they
were transformed in the magnetic field formed by the new personal
computing metaphor. It was the attitudes as well as the great ideas of
the pioneers that helped Smalltalk get invented. Many of the people I
admired most at this time--such as Ivan Sutherland, Marvin Minsky,
Seymour Papert, Gordon Moore, Bob Barton, Dave Evans, Butler Lampson,
Jerome Bruner, and others--seemed to have a splendid sense that their
creations, though wonderful by relative standards, were not near to the
absolute thresholds that had to be crossed. Small minds try to form
religions, the great ones just want better routes up the mountain. Where
Newton said he saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants,
computer scientists all too often stand on each other's toes. Myopia is
still a problem where there are giants' shoulders to stand
on--"outsight" is better than insight--but it can be minimized by using
glasses whose lenses are highly sensitive to esthetics and criticism.


New ideas go through stages of acceptance, both from within and without.
>From within, the sequence moves from "barely seeing" a pattern several
times, then noting it but not perceiving its "cosmic" significance, then
using it operationally in several areas, then comes a "grand rotation"
in which the pattern becomes the center of a new way of thinking, and
finally, it turns into the same kind of inflexible religion that it
originally broke away from. From without, as Schopenhauer noted, the new
idea is first denounced as the work of the insane, in a few years it is
considered obvious and mundane, and finally the original denouncers will
claim to have invented it.

My comment on this is that Smalltalk-80 was indeed wonderful by relative
standards, but it shouldn't become a religion that keeps us from
inventing something better. Though this isn't nearly as sad as people
who keep insisting on creating things that are worse while the public
assumes it is automatically better than something "old" like Smalltalk
(what C. S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery").


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