[squeak-dev] Re: ESUG selected as GSoC 2010 mentoring organization!!!!

Ralph Johnson johnson at cs.uiuc.edu
Sun Mar 21 16:54:29 UTC 2010

On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 11:17 AM, Casimiro de Almeida Barreto <
casimiro.barreto at gmail.com> wrote:

> Let's face some facts: C was around in 1960ies. It became popular around
> end of 1980ies because hardware became available and Unix systems
> started to sell. Then, in 1994 there was Java that caught because Sun
> invested loads of bucks in it, created astounding documentation prior to
> product launch, favored all kinds of formation programs around the
> product and distributed it for free. When Java was launched, most
> smalltalks weren't fit to that day hardware (image size among other
> things). Then smalltalk was plagued by a whole wave of bad marketing and
> proprietary code.

Perhaps it is not worth correcting this, but you said "facts"  C was started
in very early 70s, maybe 69, but I think actually 71.  It was a descendent
of BCPL.  It was used for Unix, and Unix was very popular in CS departments
by 1978 (when I went to grad school) because you got source for everything,
and could do OS hacking with C.  Much of the early internet (ARPAnet, as it
was called then) work was done in C.   Many companies were using C in the
late 70s, though of course it kept growing through the 80s and "became
popular" is somewhat arbitrary, but I think was long before late 80s.

During most of the period encompassed between 1994->2008 most "market"
> was satisfied with java & the likes. Around 2004 some people started to
> mind about limitations of the "java model" & investment in things like
> python/ruby/etc increased. There was also a peak of interest in
> smalltalk (not only squeak things but also slate, etc). Interesting
> enough, things converged (like python moving in several senses toward
> ideas originally devised in smalltalk communities).
> Smalltalk started to take off around 1990.  People started using it before
that, of course, but that was when you started reading stories in popular
media about success on commercial projects with it.  It was growing
something like 60% a year, which seemed quite good at the time, though Java
put that to shame.  Java came out in 1995, but it was just a research
prototype at first.  People started using it for serious things in 97/98,
though at first every single big project failed.  I don't think people
started succeeding at building large business systems until a few years
later.  But some companies decided in 1997 that they were going to drop
Smalltalk and use Java instead.  This is testimony to the wonderful
marketing that Sun gave to Java.  Companies were dropping a technology that
worked well  in favor of a technology that had never been used to do
anything big.  This wasn't completely irrational; it was hard to find
Smalltalk programmers and most of the companies pushing Smalltalk were very
small.  IBM was the only big company pushing it, and Smalltalk was clearly
not a major part of their strategy, like Linux and Java later became.  Big
companies don't like to depend on small companies.  They like to depend on
other large companies.  So, big companies were always leery of Smalltalk,
and in spite of its technical advantages wanted something else.  They wanted
something like Smalltalk but with big companies behind it, and something
that was taught a lot in schools.  Java seemed better to them.

Smalltalk had a period of 5-6 years where people said "it is the next
Cobol".  From the point of view of executives who lived through that period,
Smalltalk tried and failed.  Of course, it didn't really fail.  People built
lots of big Smalltalk systems that worked very well.  Some of them are still
around, like ControlWorks and Kapital.  Of course, there were  Smalltalk
development projects that failed.  Using Smalltalk is no garentee that a
project will succeed.  Big projects tend to fail no matter what you build
them in.  But technically, Smalltalk was a success.  However, it didn't take
off, so in people's minds it was a failure, it is hard to fight that

This is the past.  It doesn't have to be the future.  But it is usually
helpful to understand the past if you want to change the future.

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