Why isn’t Smalltalk more popular?

Richard Kenneth Eng
1 min readJul 14, 2022


GUARDIAN: (The doughnut pulses bright in time with the words) A question. Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question.
KIRK: What are you?
GUARDIAN: I am the Guardian of Forever.

We know that Smalltalk was quite popular in the 1990s, and we know that the rise of Java derailed Smalltalk’s future.

But why is it hard for Smalltalk to rise again? There are several reasons:

  1. It needs huge PR and marketing, just like nearly all successful new languages today received — Java (Sun), C# (MS), Go (Google), Rust (Mozilla), TypeScript (MS), Swift (Apple).
  2. It needs a measure of luck and good timing.
  3. People want jobs. It’s the classic chicken-or-egg dilemma. There won’t be jobs for Smalltalk unless it’s more widely used, but it won’t be more widely used unless more companies adopt Smalltalk.
  4. Developers need to break free of the file-based mindset. It’s been half a century already — let go of source code files!

We stick to source code files for the same reason we stick to steering wheels and QWERTY keyboards. Out of habit and inflexible psyche.