Stuff For Sale
2004 Summer Tour
In The Press
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This site has been selected by PC Webopaedia as one of the best on this topic!
This site has been awarded a Links2Go Key Resource Award in the Smalltalk category!
What Is Smalltalk?
If you're reading this page, you probably already have a good
idea. But if you haven't a clue, we suggest you start with Goldberg
and Robson (listed in our bibliography).
Although it is obsolete because it describes no current Smalltalk
dialect, this seminal work is still one of the best introductions.
Another good starting point is Craig Latta's Smalltalk FAQ, available
et. al. (Ohio State has the nicest HTML port, the others are plain
From there, it is best to get a version to play with. A very new
(July 1996) implementation of a Smalltalk learning environment which
appears to include the ability to program in Smalltalk by using the
"nerd" book is available from the LearningWorks
project. The project has impressive leadership -- Adele Goldberg!
There are two freely distributed Smalltalk dialects. Either Steve
Smalltalk or Timothy Budd's Little
Smalltalk can serve to "get your feet wet," but both are fairly
limited, especially in graphical user interface, which is where the
commercial Smalltalk versions shine. Another low-cost implementation
for UNIX with X-Windows is Tomcat's Smalltalk/X.
Bob Sutherland mentions
that ST/V-16 for Windows is still available for $300 with
WindowBuilder from The Smalltalk
Store. It is not a current product, but still a bargain for
someone who wants to learn Smalltalk on a budget.
Once you decide Smalltalk is worth paying for, there are numerous
commercial versions to choose from. VisualWorks® from ParcPlace-Digitalk
is perhaps the most popular, and (for the present, at least) features
zero-cost portability for properly written applications. Built on top
of VisualWorks is Distributed Smalltalk, which adds CORBA-compliant
object distribution. However, VisualAge®
from IBM is making a strong showing, with a good balance of
functionality, speed, and "Wintel" platform integration. They also
have a SOM object distribution scheme available. ParcPlace-Digitalk
also sells VisualSmalltalk®, which is known for speed and tight
"Wintel" platform integration.
Beyond the "big three" lie several interesting niche products.
GemStone® from GemStone Systems
is the only true multi-user Smalltalk on the market, and it doubles
as a full OODBMS! ObjectStudio from Vmark features Business Object
Modeling & Persistent Object Modeling including support for tight
integration with RDBMS systems and COBOL. SmalltalkAgents®, a
ground-breaking implementation from Quasar
Knowledge Systems, features tight platform integration on the
Apple Macintosh. Finally, ENVY/Smalltalk®, from Object
Technology International, finds wide use in embedded and custom
environments, and their ENVY/Developer® is the premier Smalltalk
code management system for all the major Smalltalk dialects.
All of these products are too expensive for most individual's
budgets, but many of them have aggressive student pricing.
What Is Smalltalk Good For?
In our opinion, Smalltalk best embodies the gains that are said to
arise from object-oriented software, combined with ready availability
through several vendors. Newcomers such as Dylan and Self are
revolutionary and are to be watched for future direction, but they
lack Smalltalk's maturity. Old-timers such as Simula and C++ have not
proven to be as versatile, nor as productive.
Smalltalk has been embedded in an oscilloscope, and it manages the
telephone system of an entire country. It runs real-time switching
circuits, and it runs batch programs on large mainframe computers. It
generates test patterns for semiconductor test equipment, and
generates the exact manufacturing cost of an automobile.
But by far, Smalltalk has found its widest interest in business
informations systems. In engineering shops, it's a hard sell -- after
all, their people already know C, so they lean toward C++. But when
an MIS director is faced with "modernizing" hundreds of COBOL
programmers, the choice is not influenced with the legacy of C, and
Smalltalk is often chosen, based on technical merit and flexibility.
Smalltalk also is well-suited for large
projects, especially if cultural and procedural issues are
properly addressed. (Our
Smalltalk Report column tries to address these issues.)
This is not to imply that Smalltalk is automatically the best
choice in every situation -- indeed, one of the biggest problems is
based upon overly zealous proponents. Also, Smalltalk's rapid growth
has caused the lack of availability of skilled practicioners to be a
limiting factor. But many more application domains can benefit from
Smalltalk than one might at first imagine, and the decision to use it
should be based on overall business reasons, rather than knee-jerk
How Does Smalltalk Scale?
Smalltalk has a history of incredible productivity for
individuals, but not so rosy a picture for large projects. We believe
strongly that this is due to cultural,
procedural, and managerial issues, not language
or technical issues.
Sometimes Smalltalk is actually called in as a scape-goat: "Oh my
gosh, this is a crash and burn -- quick, find something to blame it
on!" At other times, it is seen as a "silver bullet" -- a life-line
for a sinking project. These have no hope of success, with or without
Smalltalk is growing up, finally getting the kind of support for
process and methodology that COBOL programmers have long taken for
granted. This is evidenced by the strong interest in Smalltalk
issues, such as testing,
shown at OOPSLA '95.
Got Any Neat Links?
There's a lot of neat stuff out there, but here's a few places we
think are worth visiting, that we haven't had an excuse to mention
What Do You Think?
We're interested in your suggestions for improving this website.
Please send email comments to the