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2008-10-10

Is Smalltalk coming back?

Think programming language (not parties). It's amazing how long Smalltalk has been around now (1980: first public version) and it still feels modern, especially its syntax. Sadly, it never got the popularity it deserved. By now, there is even a free version called Squeak, but its UI is beyond unorthodox: I am very patient when it comes to GUIs---I've always thought Java Swing was OK (a few years ago this said a lot about my patience). But if I, a programmer, already find the GUI cumbersome, how can I expect the broad public to work with it? The GUI was so off-putting that I didn't even bother checking if Squeak had improved on Smalltalk's poor modularity mechanisms. But apparently, I wasn't alone in finding Squeak “improvement-worthy”:
  • Pharo: A next-generation Squeak.
  • Newspeak: A completely new language that has been inspired by Smalltalk, but contains many new ideas.
Decades ago we've already had very slick combinations of object-oriented development environments and programming languages: Common Lisp (on Symbolics), Smalltalk, Self, Oberon. Thus, it is a bit sad that the mainstream has not advanced that far, in some aspects even taken a step back. Let's hope that Newspeak and others bring some excitement back to programming language design.

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