What killed Smalltalk could kill Python

Michael Torrie torriem at gmail.com
Thu Jan 22 01:08:18 CET 2015

On 01/21/2015 04:37 PM, Tim Daneliuk wrote:
> On 01/21/2015 10:34 AM, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
>> 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.
> I find these kinds of discussions sort of silly.  Once there is a critical
> mass of installed base, no language EVER dies.
> I suspect the real reason Smalltalk sort of got kicked to the curb is because
> a) It clung to a kind of OO purity that simply is at odds with the practice
> of programming at large scale  and   b) It thus never built the aforementioned
> critical mass.

I suspect Smalltalk lost relevance mainly because it never integrated
very well into any computing system.  Everything ran in a virtual
machine in its own image in isolation as it were.  The IDE and the
runtime environment were inseparable, and as OS's developed their own
environments it just never tried to fit in.  It's almost as if Smalltalk
was the language, runtime, your program source code, *and* operating
system.  That's what he meant in his talk about the problem with
smalltalk being the "image."  The only way to distribute your smalltalk
programs was to distribute the image file, which was basically a memory
dump.  When you wanted to list out a smalltalk program you were
basically decompiling it to the editor widget.

So this integrated nature of smalltalk (source code, editor, live
objects, etc) was its most powerful feature, but ultimately its downfall
too in my opinion.  And at the same time we regularly pine for some of
those features.

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