[self-interest] Re: UnitTests

Chandrasekhar Ramakrishnan cramakrishnan at acm.org
Wed Jan 12 10:54:52 UTC 2011

2011/1/11 Adam <adam.spitz at gmail.com>:

> 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."

>From the Devil's Dictionary:

  REFLECTION, n. An action of the mind whereby we obtain a clearer view
  of our relation to the things of yesterday and are able to avoid the perils
  that we shall not again encounter.

Even granting, for the sake of argument, that this is what killed
Smalltalk (meaning, "what prevented Smalltalk from reaching wider
commercial success," which is only one metric for success and not
always a salient one), it is not clear to me what the lesson for today

This "problem" only manifests itself for a particular kind of
project/team/development structure. I think there is quite convincing
evidence that the computers of the near future will be quite different
from the ones we have become used to programming (does Apple even
produce a MacOS X machine with less than 2 processors?), and it seems
reasonable to expect that the way we will program them will also be
different. And if we expand our view beyond Java/C/Ruby/Python, etc,
to domains solved by languages like Matlab, R, or Max/MSP (users of
which might not even think of themselves as programmers), I wouldn't
be surprised if a Smalltalk-like language and environment couldn't
stick in some niche.

This is not necessarily to say that a Smalltalk-like language will be
commercially successful in the future, but the fact that Smalltalk
wasn't should discourage future attempts.


C. Ramakrishnan           cramakrishnan at acm.org

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