I want to learn a new language...

Levi Pearson levi at cold.org
Thu Feb 15 12:25:58 MST 2007

Michael L Torrie <torriem at chem.byu.edu> writes:
> I think one of the  things that prevented Smalltalk from gaining a lot
> of traction in app development was the fact that Smalltalk was like its
> own operating system.  Smalltalk objects where created by the IDE that
> was part of smalltalk, and the only way to save your work was to dump
> the environment out to disk.  Were later implementations more like a
> traditional environment where source could could be loaded/compiled and
> executed?

I don't think that itself was a big problem.  The commercial
Smalltalks (and Lisps, which follow the same image-based strategy) had
version control systems and tree-shakers, which remove the IDE-related
stuff from the app executable when an image is created for
distribution.  Java is essentially the same, though the image is
rebuilt every time you run an application instead of being a frozen
set.  Smalltalk actually did get a lot of traction in a few
industries, especially the financial industry in Wall Street.  I still
see Smalltalk job openings there occasionally.  I think the main
reason it lost to Java was price and marketing strategy.

Anyway, if you really must work with files and build your image from
scratch every time, GNU Smalltalk works on that model.  There's also
some work being done with Squeak to modularize it and make it more
suited for traditional app development, though it's going very slowly
since there are already other Smalltalks well-suited to that.  Dolphin
Smalltalk is an excellent, fast implementation for Windows that
creates native-GUI apps with standalone executables.  You work with
the image, but you can version control everything, so it doesn't feel
terribly different than working in an IDE with regular files.

> Years ago my uncle worked at Wordperfect on a language that was intended
> to be embedded in WordPerfect, DataPerfect, and the like.  It was called
> Tool and was based on Smalltalk (bootstrapped from smalltalk actually).
> It was very cool at the time.  Like smalltalk it had an integrated IDE
> and debugger.  It was also a similar syntax to Smalltalk.  Can't
> remember all the advantages it had over smalltalk.  I'll have to dig up
> the documentation I still have on it.

Domain-specific languages often have advantages over their host
languages for the domain they were created for.  Why else would they
exist?  It doesn't sound like it would be very useful outside of the
WordPerfect suite, though.


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