[squeak-dev] Re: what is holding back Smalltalk?

Casimiro de Almeida Barreto casimiro.barreto at gmail.com
Fri Nov 21 18:45:42 UTC 2008

Jecel Assumpcao Jr escreveu:
> (...)
> In fact, we can generalize this and of nearly all objections that were
> pointed out there is some Smalltalk to which it doesn't apply. Now it
> might be that only a perfect Smalltalk to which none of the objections
> apply could have succeeded, but I think what we have here is a case of
> http://www.dreamsongs.org/WorseIsBetter.html
About that I have an interesting anedocte: in 1998 I was working for the
"Department of Education of São Paulo State" (SEESP) under UNDP
contract. There, people were having hard times trying to implement a
system for the management of schools. That system would feed other
systems at the "Department" so the person in charge ("Secretary of
Education") would have real time data about schools (including student
performance, teachers performance, etc). The problem itself is simple
and, from the tech point of view, the system should not be complicated.

So, where was the trouble? Easy: the "Department" board kept issuing
incredible specifications for the system. So, it was not enough that the
goals were achieved, but the system should be "up to date with the best
in the world" (what the hell did that meant????!!!!). In short: some
people didn't want any system controlling their lack of competence and
bombed the initiative through rejecting specifications and issuing over
and over more complex and unintelligible ones.

Years later an auditing consultant observed that the best way of keeping
the status quo is always demanding the excellent even when you don't
have the satisfactory.
> Smalltalk had higher upfront costs than the alternatives, but scaled
> much better. When I pointed out Self (Sun's own version of Smalltalk) to
> people in the mid 1990s they would reply "but you need a 24MB Sun
> machine to run that! Practically all deployed workstations only have 8MB
> and Java works just fine there." I would claim that this was only
> because Java wasn't doing anything yet (animating a funny little man)
> and that by the time it did half of what Self did it would be twice as
> large. It turned out that I was actually generous to Java, but when my
> prediction came true typical PCs had 256MB each.
Not to mention that Sun not only killed Self but did the same to
SpringOS... :( Now they face the reality of selling mostly Intel servers
running RedHat Linux...
> But to understand what happened to Smalltalk you must look at the
> history more than at technical aspects. I don't know a good text I can
> link to, but Eliot spent some time on this in his AoSTA talk -
> http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8988857822906068209
> -- Jecel
Thnx Jecel for both the reading and the video !!!

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