Common Smalltalk VM Summit

David Griswold David.Griswold at
Thu Oct 5 16:29:23 UTC 2006


- I won't be at OOPSLA.  That would have been a great time to meet, but it
is not to be, for me.
I don't know about Dan.  If there is a critical mass of people that want to
talk about it there, I could probably call in on a conference call or

- I know that many people would like to see this the VM all in Smalltalk
rather than C++, and that is a long-term goal for us too.   But that is more
a long term experiment; if we are going to join together on a common VM, we
need a tried-and-true path that we know can produce a commercial quality VM,
and it would be a lot faster to start from the C++ that we have.

- I am a fan of things like Exupery etc.  But I don't think it is reasonable
in the near future to retrofit type-feedback into any of the existing VM
frameworks.  If it was that easy it would already have been done.  The
type-feedback infrastructure needs to be built in from the beginning.
Without that infrastructure, no compiler will even get close to the
performance of type-feedback on general Smalltalk code (as opposed to


> -----Original Message-----
> From: squeak-dev-bounces at
> [mailto:squeak-dev-bounces at]On Behalf Of
> goran at
> Sent: Thursday, October 05, 2006 5:41 AM
> To: The general-purpose Squeak developers list
> Subject: Re: Common Smalltalk VM Summit
> Hi David and all!
> Some ramblings from a non VM hacker:
> "David Griswold" <David.Griswold at> wrote:
> > 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?
> Question #1: Will you and/or Dan be at OOPSLA now in October?
> > 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
> > opportunity.
> A few comments:
> IMHO there are at least two very interesting projects in this arena:
> Ian's pepsi/coke/idst and Bryce's Exupery.
> It was a while since I heard anything about AoStA. And all the "other"
> non-Smalltalk projects like Parrot, YARV (a fast Ruby VM - tons of those
> projects apparently), Pypy etc are probably too far "away" from the
> Smalltalk community to be of real interest.
> Then of course we have Spoon - the "minimal Squeak project" that Craig
> is pulling - which probably could form a very good new "kernel image" on
> top of a new VM, but despite some low level modification to the VM like
> his super proxies etc - he has AFAIK not yet touched the VM much.
> Now, to most of us Squeakers it is joyful to see Strongtalk "back in
> business" - especially since that includes people like you. :)
> On the other hand, a big chunk of C++ doesn't really sound like an
> attractive artifact - at least not to me ;). Ian has moved away from C++
> as his choice of VM implementation platform (see idst/pepsi/coke etc)
> and Bryce is building Exupery entirely in Squeak itself.
> Getting the whole (including commercial ones) Smalltalk community united
> behind a common execution platform is probably... hard. But getting the
> open source subset of the Smalltalk community (GST, Squeak and so on)
> united should be at least in the realm of possibilities.
> Without actually knowing what I am blabbering about I would *love* to
> see the following happening:
> You (and other Strongtalk implementors) take your expertise (and
> possibly even code) and take a hard look at Ian's and Bryce's work and
> join up with them.
> Exupery is probably the "backwards compatible" (since it more or less
> piggy backs on the existing VM which is quite polished at this time) way
> to real speed for the current Squeak VM in a reasonable timeframe.
> But pepsi/idst/coke looks to me to be perhaps the most promising and
> exciting low level platform ever. I am hoping that Exupery can somehow
> eventually become a part of that, as one of several backends - and I am
> also betting that Ian has the ambition to include type-feedback
> optimizations into it.
> Since pepsi/idst/coke is so malleable (it is not even a VM!) it seems
> like it could have a chance to become a common platform for different
> Smalltalks - it is meant to work for almost any kind of language, and
> already has other languages running on top of it - like javascript (in
> some form).
> Well, there are others with much more insight than little me. But to be
> frank - I don't see lots of Squeak VM experts rushing over to try to
> grok a large C++ code body. I do however see people flocking towards
> Exupery (since it is written in Smalltalk) and to pepsi/idst/coke (since
> it too is written in Smalltalk to a large degree).
> So not to put a damper on the enthusiasm here (which I probably did
> anyway - but that is not my intention) but I think that the
> Strongtalkers should join the Squeakers - and not hoping for the
> opposite to happen. ;)
> regards, Göran
> PS. These are exciting times for Smalltalk. Let's have fun no matter
> what! An appetizer to get you all interested in idst/pepsi/coke, have
> you *ever* seen a Smalltalk hello world like this?!:

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