Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lost Our Way

Its amazing what you can discover out there on the interweb. Was just looking at a blog that had a link to the design principles behind Smalltalk. This is some really powerful stuff, and I am completely speechless - how could we have lost our way so badly. According to the preamble, the paper was published in Byte magazine in 1981. So really great thinking about what a language should be was present 25-30 years ago! I know very little about Smalltalk, the principles described in the paper were (and in many respects still are) revolutionary.

What a shame we have ended up in a world with so many disappointing languages. Wish I could have been involved with Smalltalk.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Hi Andy,

Reading the Smalltalk paper is depressing. David Ungar and Randall Smith did build on these original Smalltalk ideas with Self. I've got a really great introduction to Self in the OO history videos link on my blog (broken but I'll try and fix this it). It is worth a watch, the link below works:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5776880551404953752

The problem then is still the same today. How do we allow people to be creative with computers. Very few in our industry "get it". Apple and Steve Jobs are amongst the few.

The Smalltalk dream lives on though. There are many that were touched by Smalltalk that are just biding their time. Beyond spreadsheets and word processors, human-computer-interaction and human creativity through collaboration technology is still the end game. The web as a collaboration mechanism is one step towards this goal. I see the end game as a 3-dimensional collaborative virtual world. A world similar to the one envisioned in the movie the Matrix or depicted as the holo-deck in Star Trek.

We are not there yet, but if we are ever to get there then we will need to return to the ideals of Smalltalk. like it says in the paper:

Natural Selection: Languages and systems that are of sound design will persist, to be supplanted only by better ones.


Smalltalk is still with us, and the nearest thing to the vision I describe is Open Croquet written in Squeak. As Alan Kay is fond of saying:

"The Computer Revolution hasn't happened yet.."