What killed Smalltalk could kill Python

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at pearwood.info
Wed Jan 21 17:34:26 CET 2015

In 2009, Robert Martin gave a talk at RailsConf titled "What Killed
Smalltalk Could Kill Ruby". (No cheering, that sort of attitude is one of
the things that killed Smalltalk.) Although Martin discusses Ruby, the
lessons could also apply to Python.

Video is available here:


Youngsters may not be aware of Smalltalk. It was the language which
popularised object oriented programming. Technically, Simula was the first
OOP language, but Smalltalk popularised it. For a decade or two in the 80s
and 90s, Smalltalk was *the* killer language, the one everybody wanted to
use if only their boss would let them. It was amazingly innovative:
Smalltalk introduced unit testing, test driven development, and it had
powerful refactoring IDEs back in the 1990s.

And now it's all but dead. Why did it die, and how can Python (or Ruby for
that matter) avoid the same fate?

Martin is a very entertaining speaker, funny and knowledgeable. It is a very
entertaining talk, and he covers not just Smalltalk and Ruby but the nature
of professionalism, how fear makes code worse, how to make code better,
Ward Cunningham, the hormonal characteristics of various languages, the
language wars of the 1990s, what is clean code, and more.


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