It’s still true. Smalltalk does not have a strong ecosystem of reusable software. Part of the reason is the fragmentation of the Smalltalk market. There has never been a de facto standard implementation to write to…until now.

Pharo is the strongest non-commercial Smalltalk implementation. (Dolphin Smalltalk 7 is also a contender.) I hope an ecosystem can coalesce around it.

Nevertheless, Smalltalk can still be a very productive environment, if you’re working off an existing codebase and if most of your codebase is original code, which is often the case. The built-in Smalltalk class library is very rich, whether you’re talking about Pharo or Dolphin or Cincom (the most popular commercial implementation).

Even with strong ecosystems, languages like JavaScript, Java, and C++ can slow you down because, by their very nature, they aren’t as nimble as Smalltalk, which has a very low cognitive threshold. JavaScript is especially problematic in this regard, a fact that is reflected in the Namcook study.

So, you have a strong ecosystem in a heavy language that weighs you down versus a light, powerful language in a dynamite environment with a rich built-in library (the “standard” library, if you will). Under the right circumstances, Smalltalk will absolutely nail it. If you speak to Smalltalk veterans from software houses such as Cherniak Software and Simberon, they’ll tell you that this is exactly the situation many of their clients experience. Smalltalk becomes a “secret weapon” that they keep to themselves.

Now, imagine how much better Smalltalk can be with a stronger ecosystem! This is exactly why I advocated for Smalltalk last year.

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