YASoB (was Re: some news)

Alan Kay alan.kay at squeakland.org
Thu May 18 19:09:53 UTC 2006

At 10:03 AM 5/18/2006, SmallSqueak wrote:

>     I have a feeling that to many Smalltakers, in general, there have been
>     no advances in software engineering and computer language design
>     since Smalltalk was invented.
>     When was Smalltalk really invented?

The idea of objects as message sending computers came to me in Nov 66. I 
did several OOP languages between then and 1970.

>     Was it in 1972 or 1976 or 1980?

My original plan for Smalltalk was to make a Logo-like language that 
combined objects with Carl Hewitt's PLANNER (a pattern directed language 
that anticipated most abilities of Prolog by many years) and Ned Irons IMP 
(another pattern directed language but aimed at extension by end-users). 
This design is now called Smalltalk-71.

I was working on this when the hallway "bet" with Dan Ingalls and Ted 
Kaehler happened in Sept 1972. I worked for several weeks to write a less 
than one page McCarthy-like eval for an OOP language that could parse its 
own messages. Dan implemented this in Oct 1972, and all of a sudden we had 
a working system, which was put right on the Alto when it started working a 
few months later.

>     Did Squeak Central insist on creating things that are worse than
>     Smalltalk-72 and the crowd assumed that it is automatically better
>     than something "old" like Smalltalk-72?

Not really. Smalltalk-76 in many ways was the best compromise between the 
need for speed and a number of the good features of Smalltalk-72. The 
process after Smalltalk-72 was very conditioned by adult programmers making 
a system for more for themselves than having children be able to use it as 
a top priority.

>     For that matter, did the commercial Smalltalk vendors insist
>     likewise?

The big problem is that most programmers have a very hard time thinking 
about facilitating programming for people who are not like them, and they 
also have a very hard time understanding media.



>     Cheers,
>     PhiHo
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Jecel Assumpcao Jr" <jecel at merlintec.com>
>To: "The general-purpose Squeak developers list"
><squeak-dev at lists.squeakfoundation.org>
>Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 2:44 PM
>Subject: YASoB (was Re: some news)
> > PhiHo,
> >
> > > "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.
> > -------
> >
> > and
> >
> > -------
> > 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").
> >
> > --Jecel
> >

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