Serious Squeak (other "survey")

Trygve Reenskaug trygver at
Sun Oct 15 12:44:50 UTC 2006

Reportedly, Yehudi Menuhin got a toy violin when he was a toddler. Angrily, 
he trough it away: "It won't sing!". He must later have been given a better 
one because he began learning violin seriously at age three. He gave his 
first performance as a solo violinist at the age of seven, alongside the 
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

My point: The word "toy" is often taken as an antonym of "tool". A toy 
violin, a toy hammer, a toy knife - all useless and should never be given 
to children. Better give them real instruments and tools. A real violin, 
even if small. A real hammer. A sharp knife.

Squeak should not be a "toy" that may look like the real thing, but isn't. 
(There are many other meanings of "toy", but I am confident many people 
share my view when the encounter the word out of context).

My ideal for Squeak is that it should act as a resonance box for the user's 
brain; amplifying and augmenting his or her thoughts just as the body of a 
violin fills out the performer's intentions.

A good user interface bridges the mismatch between the user's mental model 
and the computer's data model.

As in the world of music, Squeak should have many levels. Each should be 
carefully specified, designed and implemented. The result should permit all 
levels of personal involvement from the equivalent of a gramophone, through 
karaoke, to full fledged instruments or even instrument-making.

A musician often plays works composed by other people. This requires a 
common musical notation, a language. An orchestra involves many musicians; 
their performance coordinated by a maestro. A business needs software that 
implements policy, aids communication and supports business processes as 
well as individual workers. Most software used "as is" with room for 
personal variations everywhere.

IMO, all this makes the applaudable cleanup efforts by Marcus, Stephane, 
and many others not only desirable, but essential for all kinds of Squeak 
usage (possibly excluding toys that won't sing).


At 19:29 14.10.2006, Alan wrote:
>The "other" kind of thing that "can be played with" is an "instrument" 
>(musical, wood or metal shaping, etc.). Instruments are partly "mess 
>around toys" and partly "serious toys". And Art enters in when one starts 
>to play on an instrument and around with an instrument. Dan and I had this 
>in mind when we designed and built Smalltalk.
>At 09:57 AM 10/14/2006, Matthew Fulmer wrote:
>>On Sat, Oct 14, 2006 at 10:41:52AM +0200, Lord ZealoN wrote:
>> > Well, sometimes I send this to the maillist but never get answers.
>> >
>> > I would like to know your opinion about this.
>> >
>> > Squeak/Smalltalk is powerful, but for users, or developers in other
>> > environments (VB, C, Java etc..), looks like a toy. No games on it, No
>> > "famous" app's. All, etoys for kids and a mouse as logo. I think the
>> > squeak "world" needs changes, remove pinks colors in the image, and a
>> > large etc...
>>This may get me in trouble, but I will make a bold claim:
>>Squeak is a toy. That is a good thing.
>>Squeak is a toy, and therefore it looks like a toy. Aversion to
>>toys is (in my not-so-humble opinion) the worst thing that is
>>taught to programmers (adults?) today. Playing is the only way
>>to make new ideas. One must enjoy playing before they can
>>understand the purpose of Squeak. Until they realize "Squeak is
>>a Toy, and I am OK with that", they are missing the point. A
>>clean object memory, simple syntax, and easy debugging are just
>>implementation issues. The point of Squeak is to have fun
>>building; after that, everything else falls into place.
>>Most programmers (myself included) have been brainwashed by
>>companies invading the school system with their agenda. That is
>>why terrible things like java are allowed to exist. We are told:
>>- Everyone wants a consistent interface
>>- You need complicated software to develop software
>>- You need to go through the university system to be a
>>   programmer
>>- Stay away from fast-moving platforms (i.e., the living and
>>   active ones with real ideas)
>>- Don't play with toys; do your work
>>Alan Kay has asserted that businesses are not very creative and
>>are stuck in a rut. He says that the only way to make progress
>>is to get un-brainwashed minds (mostly children) into the realm
>>of programming.
>>Most programmers have spent most of their time writing the same
>>code over and over again, and have come to believe that that is
>>the only way to be productive. Creativity is long-gone. In my
>>opinion, overcoming the user interface is the least of our
>>problems; much more difficult is to overcome the ingrained
>>behavior of sticking with the old, stable, and dead
>>platforms that have proliferated the programming world.
>>Computers are much newer than most people would like to think.
>>Like Alan Kay said, it took 150 years after the printing press
>>was invented for newspapers to become common. Before that, they
>>were only used to do old tasks, like print Bibles.
>>Computers today are only used (by most people, businesses, and
>>programmers) to do old tasks, like communication, documentation,
>>and art creation. The new ability that computers have, which is
>>hardly used or even acknowledged, is the ability to think.
>>Computers and humans together, can think in ways that were
>>impossible before. Scientists have some understanding of that
>>ability, but, the more programmers solve the task at hand, the
>>less we will solve the real problem, which is thinking in a new
>>Computer-aided thinking is the problem that Squeak and EToys are
>>designed to solve. It is pretty much the only system with that
>>goal in mind, and few people even realize that there is a
>>problem. This is the real issue that confronts people who are
>>not familiar with Squeak: understanding that it solves a real
>>problem. The color scheme is not the issue.
>>Thus I think that looking like a toy is a good thing. However,
>>there is always value in meeting the others halfway, so another
>>color scheme is a good idea.
>> > Oficial web need's a change, more modern ( too, looks
>> > like an abandoned project, and the news about the projects are old) ),
>> > writen in smalltalk. About the logo, I sugggest one time, would be
>> > interesting thath Squeak take a logo like squeakfoundation.
>>Yes, the web person recently left, and his position has not been
>>filled yet.
>> > More developers means (not always but...) more packages, more tools,
>> > more code, more ideas. And I think we need change some things to get
>> > this.
>>Indeed. More developers will be able to help with the
>>implementation issues, and that is a very good thing. However,
>>we must not lose sight of the fact that Squeak is, and must be, a
>>toy that encourages exploration first, and practicality second.
>> > ?What do you think about this? ?How can I/we help with all of this?
>> >
>> > I'm sure I'm not the only one with this things in her mind.
>> >
>> > Cheers.
>> > --
>> > ::Mi blog::
>> >
>> >
>> > Linux-User: #370919
>> >
>> >
>>Matthew Fulmer


Trygve Reenskaug      mailto: trygver at
Morgedalsvn. 5A
N-0378 Oslo           Tel: (+47) 22 49 57 27

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