“Smalltalk died because the hardware could not run it. It died because the compiler could not make it efficient.”

Well, you must’ve missed the statement in my article that said: “Also, it must be noted that in the early 1990s, affordable computer hardware was not up to the task of running Smalltalk well.” The Smalltalk vendors of the day did good business, and that would’ve been impossible if their customers had your experience. There are any number of reasons why your evaluation went awry [1], including having a bad day. Your one data point means very little.

Today’s implementations of Smalltalk are very good. You are probably completely unaware of the fact that there are high-performance Smalltalk solutions from the likes of GemTalk, Cincom, and Object Connect. Dolphin Smalltalk, which went Open Source recently, is an excellent implementation for Windows; Dolphin also has one of the very best IDE implementations in the business.

“Simula pioneered object oriented programming 15 years earlier.”

Yes, but it was Smalltalk that popularized OOP in the marketplace. Smalltalk was far more influential than Simula ever was. In fact, many of today’s modern OOP languages were directly influenced by Smalltalk, including Dart, Objective-C, Scala, Groovy, Perl 6, and Ruby. Almost no language at all cites Simula as a significant influence [2]. This is what sets Smalltalk apart in history.

“The syntax was so fluid as to be indecipherable.”

This statement is so ludicrous, I don’t know where to begin. Smalltalk is famous for, and highly valued for, its incredibly clean syntax. It is one of the most readable programming languages ever created. It almost reads like natural language! Smalltalk has such a low cognitive barrier that it remarkably gets out of your way so that you can focus entirely on writing your application. This, in conjunction with its fantastic “live coding” environment and IDE, is what gives Smalltalk a huge productivity advantage. This is not only an anecdotal truth (and a very strong anecdotal truth, at that), but it’s backed up by science. There is nothing hard to comprehend about Smalltalk. It has wonderful semantics that anyone can easily pick up, even a child (Xerox PARC originally intended Smalltalk to be an educational tool).

I think you had one negative experience ages ago and you’ve let that colour your opinion and blind you to the exciting developments of the past 5 or 6 years. Modern Smalltalk has a great deal of promise…


[1] — I have a number of questions: How much RAM did this “state-of-the-art PC” have? How big and fast was the hard drive? Who was the Smalltalk vendor, and was the Smalltalk implementation a good one? Perhaps it was a home-brewed or custom implementation? Was it an optimized implementation?

[2] — Simula influenced C++, which in turn influenced a family of C-style OOP languages, but this speaks more to C++’s popularity. More people recognize the name Smalltalk than Simula.

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