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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Smalltalk Evolution

The question is raised, how does Smalltalk evolve?

My answer is "very little". Smalltalk is not perfect, but is high up on the list of near-perfect languages. Any radical changes are better off being put into a new language. Otherwise the change can be put into one of the open source Smalltalk implementations and adopted ad hoc. That's your choice and right. If the change succeeds wildly the community will adopt it for you.

Meanwhile there is controversy over the leadership of Squeak. I don't know the whole story here but this is open source. They seem to be mostly supported and they've stepped up to the task, so good on them. It's not like they should be taking the language in radical directions.

Fork the language under a new name for radical changes. Let Smalltalk be Smalltalk at this point. I think the limitations of other languages lead their communities into a mindset of constantly adding features as if it were a Microsoft Office product.


Anonymous said...

Every specie of animal can be said to be perfect for the environment in which it evolved, but what happens when the environment changes? Extinction. As perfect as Smalltalk may have been when it evolved in the 1970's, today's computing environment is very different, so change it must, or die. It is that simple.

Having said that, I am not advocating radical changes, only the creation of a Smalltalk community forum in which small changes can be evaluated and made incrimentally.

Rich Demers

Patrick Logan said...

I think we're in agreement. My only point is for really significant changes, it's best to think of the result as a new language. Even if you call it Smalltalk++ 8^)

At this point Smalltalk is pretty much what it is and it has adapted pretty well without losing its center. If the center shifts, then it's a new language and would benefit from a new name.

If Smalltalk as it is currently centered needs to die then so be it. I have not seen this on the horizon myself.

Vanessa said...

I'd be interested in what you consider "really significant changes". Like, all the new semantics in Tweak have been implemented in "pure" Smalltalk-80. The compiler has been extended for a bit of syntactic sugar, but it's still the same old Squeak bytecodes. Where would you draw the line?

Patrick Logan said...

Where to draw the line? Good question... I doubt there is a line that is not fuzzy. Good thing I don't have to be the judge and jury.

Maybe we just have to be careful when we talk about Smalltalk evolving. Are we getting something better or just something new? Fortunately Smalltalk does not limit those who would play.

The bottom line is Smalltalk does not have to change the way people seem to expect Java or C# to change.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.