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Camp Smalltalk will be held in San Diego from March 14 through March 18. Organized by Ralph Johnson of Design Patterns fame, the camp is drawing 60 Smalltalk programmers from the United States and Europe. Having transformed the computer world once before, the Smalltakers are coming to the camp at their own expense to to contribute to an open-source movement that will put Smalltalk far beyond other less agile internet-related technologies.
Smalltalk, the premier object-oriented programming language, is enjoying an increase in popularity. JWARS, one of the world's largest software development projects at a cost of 25-50 milllion, is being executed in Smalltalk. Disney is using Smalltalk to develop their multimedia eToys. Smalltalk is being used to build applications for the Palm Pilot. Well known for supporting short development cycles and building easily-modified programs, Smalltalk is an excellent tool for ebusiness. New ebusiness companies are using Smalltalk to reduce their time-to market. Smalltalk vendors include IBM, Disney, Cincom, GemStone, Exept Software AG, Object Arts and Object Connect. Unfortunately, these vendors produce incompatible versions of the language, which has fragmented the Smalltalk community. Some vendors have been slow to adapt their version of Smalltalk to the needs of the Internet age.
The goals of Camp Smalltalk are to unify the Smalltalk world by making the various versions of Smalltalk more compatible and making all Smalltalk versions Internet enabled. The camp has a set of concrete projects. As is the custom in the Smalltalk community, all projects will be open-source and will rely on refactoring and extreme programming. The ANSI compatibility test suite project will show the vendors where they are not compliant with the ANSI Smalltalk standard and provide them with the code to become compliant. There are several projects designed to simplify the process of porting code between version of Smalltalk, including a portable version of the Refactoring Browser, perhaps the premier tool for producing readable and modifiable code. While most versions of Smalltalk already support the major Internet protocols, the XML, Internet Client-Sever, Smalltalk Web Application Server and the Apache-to-Smalltalk projects will make sure that all versions of the language have them. In short, the programmers at Camp Smalltalk plan to take control of the future of Smalltalk.
Smalltalk was created at Xerox Parc over a ten-year period. This gave the development team, (Adele Goldberg, Dan Ingalls, Ted Kaehler, Alan Kay, Dave Robson) time to rethink many assumptions about computers, programming languages and programming. They also had time to test and refine their ideas, before releasing the language, unlike most new programming languages today. The result of this work was at the time called Smalltalk-80. The name is derived from the original intent of the language: develop a small interactive (talk) computer language for children. The "80" indicates the year the language was finalized. Smalltalk was and still is unlike any other programming language. Its use of fonts, windows, menus, mice and graphics inspired Steve Jobs to create the Macintosh computer. Java borrows from Smalltalk much of its underlying technology: byte-codes, binary portability of applications across many platforms, virtual machines, just-in-time and garbage collection. Smalltalk's class library has been implemented in many languages including C++ and Java. Smalltalk started the object-oriented programming movement in this country. Since Smalltalk predates C++ and Java by many years, the Smalltalk community has many more years of experience with object-oriented programming. As a result the Smalltalk community produced many ideas and practices now becoming popular including iterative development, design patterns, refactoring and most recently "extreme programming". In producing the most productive programming language available, the Xerox Parc team had a profound impact on modern computers and how programmers write programs.
With all this going for it, why isn't everyone programming in Smalltalk? Unfortunately the best technology is not always the one adopted in the mainstream. There are several reasons why Smalltalk is not more widely used.
Vendor, Product, URL
Cincom, VisualWorks, VSE, Object Studio, www.cincom.com/smalltalk
Cincom, VisualWorks Non-Commercial, ObjectStudio Non-Commercial www.parcplace.com/vwnc
Disney, Squeak, squeak.org/
Exept Software AG, Smalltalk X, www.exept.de/
Gemstone, Gemstone S, smalltalk.gemstone.com/
IBM, VisualAge Smalltalk Enterprise, www.ibm.com/software/ad/smalltalk/
Object Arts, Dolphin, www.object-arts.com/Home.htm
Object Connect, Smalltalk MT, www.objectconnect.com/products.htm
Alan Kay: The Computer Revolution hasn't happened yet, www.educause.edu/conference/e98/webcast98.html
eXtreme Programming: xProgramming.com
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