Mario mario.wolczko at sun.com
Wed Jan 12 00:41:18 UTC 2011

--- In self-interest at yahoogroups.com, "Adam" <adam.spitz at ...> wrote:
> P.S. Incidentally, for those of you who don't feel like watching the whole video, the relevant part is at 21:25:
>         Ward said, "What killed Smalltalk is that it was just too easy to make a mess. You C++ programmers are lucky, because the language punishes you if you make a mess. Your builds start to take forever. You've got to undo some of the mess just to survive. But the Smalltalk people could add mess upon mess upon mess with no immediate ill effects. Their builds didn't run any slower - there *was* no build. There was nothing that went wrong with them; as long as they could manage to keep all the balls in the air, they were all right. But eventually you could build a system that was so indirect and so impenetrable and so convoluted that no one could understand it or touch it and it would become impossible to deal with."

Adam, thanks for posting the quote. 

Sadly, I watched the whole thing before seeing your message, and was not impressed. Martin has an entertaining presentation style - but the argument was simply lacking.
And his rewrite of history - as evidenced by that quote - is complete BS. Smalltalk had a small but fast-growing market, and was thriving before the arrival of Java. There were numerous startups addressing various problems (including Animorphic, which developed HotSpot from the Self VM, but before that was developing a Smalltalk VM) and even we at Sun Labs had been talking to SunSoft about productizing Self as a Smalltalk engine (that was the genesis of my Smalltalk-in-Self effort).

What killed Smalltalk was the arrival of Java, plain and simple. Not because Java was better, but because it appealed to the legions of C and C++ programmers, mostly at a syntactic level (from expression syntax all the way up to a file-based environment).  It came at a time when then was widespread disenchantment with C++ (I remember the wave of enthusiasm for C++ at OOPSLA'90 which had evaporated by OOPSLA'92). And the clincher was that it was associated with the Internet. Who'd have thought something as transient and shallow as applets could have fired so many people's imaginations?  It all seemed kinda obvious and trite to the Smalltalk community.

Sadly, for widespread adoption, syntax matters.  Maybe if Ruby catches on in a big way the world will be ready (readier) for Smalltalk, or Self, but I suspect by then we'll have different problems to solve (ubiquitous concurrency, for a start).  I'm convinced that radically new programming paradigms are adopted only by wholesale attrition of the existing workforce, so it's a generational thing. 


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