Common Smalltalk VM Summit

David Griswold David.Griswold at
Thu Oct 5 00:52:03 UTC 2006

Hi everybody,

Dan Ingalls and I have been talking, trying to figure out what to do about
the major opportunity offered by the recent release of the Strongtalk
virtual machine as open source.

Rather than keep this discussion to ourselves, our thinking was that this
would be the perfect time to call a kind of summit, with representatives of
all the major Smalltalk implementations, both open-source and commercial.
The topic: what if we could build a shared high-performance open-source
platform suitable for hosting a number of different Smalltalk systems, one
that we can all share and work on together?

While the details of the type-feedback techniques used in the Strongtalk VM
are arcane, the benefits are not: *much* higher performance for general
Smalltalk code.  Dan, myself, and many others who know about type-feedback
and the pioneering Self system, have been dreaming for many years about the
possibility that someday this technology might make it into mainstream
Smalltalk VMs.  It would take Smalltalk performance to a whole new level.

That someday is here now, if the different factions within the Smalltalk
community can pull together a little bit so that we don't miss this

There may be debate within the community about some aspects of the
Strongtalk project, for example the type system, but we should all be able
to agree on the simple idea that a whole lot more performance would be a
Good Thing.  Now a huge performance gift has suddenly shown up on our

The last thing Smalltalk needs is another incompatible implementation.  The
splintering of Smalltalk implementations has dispersed the huge amount of
talent and effort needed to build, port, maintain, and extend a really good
virtual-machine.  Alone, this is a problem for each of us.  Together, a
really good, super-fast type-feedback VM is for the first time within reach.

I would like to invite the smart people out there who know and care most
about the various Smalltalk virtual machines, to join Dan and I in a fairly
focused discussion about this starting tomorrow (Thursday, PST) on the
Strongtalk discussion group, at  I will be out of the
country for 6 weeks starting Wed the 11th, so I would like to propose that
we try to go back and forth about this a few times by the end of Friday, so
we can think about this over the weekend, and maybe come up with a proposed
general course of action by the middle of next week, so we all have
something to think about until my return.

Let's not lose this opportunity.


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