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

Elod Kironsky kironsky at
Wed May 17 10:34:02 UTC 2006

Kendall Shaw wrote:
> I'm really just talking about squeak for desktop applications. For 
> games or web applications etc., it's not as much of an issue.
> The fact that squeak has it's own desktop, effectively makes it it's 
> own platform for the purposes of desktop applications.
> If your program doesn't look exactly like every other program and use 
> exactly the same procedure they've had to use for every program, then 
> game over, you might as well not have even bothered to write the program.
> In squeak, the controls don't look or behave like the other controls a 
> user will use on their computer, so game over, you might as well not 
> have even bothered to write the program.
> It doesn't matter what I think about it. It's what the user is likely 
> to think about it.
I was pretty busy for the last two weeks and had no time to read the 
mailing list, but after I've read this thread, I feel, I must summarize 
my feelings about this topic. First of all, the above words are very 
true. Squeak in this form is great for us Squeak users, but how about 
others, who know nothing about it? Just imagine, you would develop a 
great application in Squeak and then give it to a BFU user that is used 
to work with Windows application. What would his/her feelings be? The 
fact is, a programming language or environment can be brilliant by 
itself, but if it is not accepted by the developers and end users (or if 
they have an *aversion* to use it) it will just not be used in 
mainstream. I first met Squeak (and Smalltalk in general) at my 
university studies. I was astonished by its possibilities and maybe 
lucky too, because I had no previous experience with Java. So I started 
to use it, developed my diploma thesis in Squeak and continue to use it 
for my PhD. thesis too. But when my friends ask me, what programming 
language I'm using, usually their reaction is something like: "Oh, 
Squeak, well, isn't that a language for outsiders? Is it used by any 
serious big companies? Can you deploy applications in Squeak similar to 
those developed in Java? What about the performance?". Sure, part of 
this problem lies in the fact, that Squeak and Smalltalk in common is 
not widely spread at universities. If it is used, then for research 
projects that are not supposed to act as big mainstream applications. 
Because of this, there is no chance to train a new generation of 
programmers, who would actively use Smalltalk from the beginning and 
*CONTINUE* to use it in their daily work. There is very little chance, 
that someone, who started to use Java as his/her main programming 
language, will switch to Squeak. I agree, that a lack of standard API is 
also a problem, although it is true, that it limits the divergence of a 
language. Also, imagine that a company would actually decide to migrate 
to Squeak for example. They used a professional IDE before and run 
Squeak. What do they see? A fox's head with moving eyes and a somehow 
strange and childish UI. How are they supposed to create a serious 
application in that? Note, these word just try to demonstrate how a 
Squeak newbie would just react at the first encounter with Morphic. 
Personally, I think Morphic is great because of it's flexibility, but if 
you are developing an application with GUI, it is the last So let 
choice, mainly because it has only one global event handler for every 
window/object.'s talk straight, if we want to have Squeak widely spread 
and used also in mainstream, we must *at least*:

* create a new GUI or a way to use standard widgets from Squeak
* get an application written in Squeak behave like it was a standard 
Windows application
* create fancy applications in this way to get people take Squeak seriously
* inspire as many beginning programmers as possible to choose Squeak as 
their programming language number one, one they start to use it, they 
will never want to use anything else anyway :-) we'll nedd the first 3 
points done for that
* get serious big corporations to sponsor Squeak and also get more publicity

These are my humble opinions. Please do not feel offended, personally I 
love Squeak and would never use anything else, but in practice I'm bound 
to use C++ :-(  (c'est la vie)



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