Smalltalk and VisualWorks

March 25th, 2003 § 2 comments

In the last weekend, I downloaded VisualWorks, the cross-platform Smalltalk environment from Cincom. It was something I had been planning to do for some time, but other priorities kept from really doing it.

I have been a big Smalltalk fan since I first read about it, in the late nineties. Unfortunately, the language is virtually unknown in Brazil and it’s pretty impossible to find work using it (except, probably in São Paulo, where Extreme Programming, which has Smalltalk roots, is stronger.) I was talking to a friend of mine about it sometime ago, and he said jokingly that he considered Smalltalk a myth since he was always hearing about it, but never had actually seem it in use. Also jokingly, I replied he should only try to find information about it if he was prepared to lose interest in other languages for the rest of his life, and that was why people kept Smalltalk a secret. (Actually, I was only partly joking. After I learned Smalltalk, I never found another language with such power and elegance. And no other language is so pleasurable to work with as Smalltalk is. To those who do not know, Smalltalk power lies in its simplicity — the language has only five keywords — and the image-based development model that makes for a rapid edit-run-debug cycle).

Installing VisualWorks is very simple. To me, it was enough to unzip the contents of two files and create a shortcut for the application. The environment is familiar since I’ve used Squeak (an open source Smalltalk environment) a lot of times in the past years. Obviously, there are some notably exceptions as VisualWorks is more geared to professional development while Squeak is intended for educational uses. GUI development is completely different, but one can always resort to tutorials and help files to get started in that kind of programming.

Although I never completed a serious application using Smalltalk (I didn’t know VisualWorks when I started using Smalltalk, and I don’t like Squeak’s deployment model), this time I intend to use VisualWorks to implement a personal project I’ve been planning for some months now. This project will allow me to work with a lot of the Smalltalk and VisualWorks libraries and get up to speed with Smalltalk again. In fact I have downloaded BottomFeeder‘s source code to take a look at how a real Internet application is done with VisualWorks (BottomFeeder is a RSS aggregator), and I will use the next weekend to study it.

So, the fun is just beginning.

§ 2 Responses to Smalltalk and VisualWorks"

  • moraes says:

    stupendous. you have convinced me. i’ve started studying a lot about smalltalk (after reading your superb article “More on the evolution of programming languages”) and alan kay and partner’s philosophy sounds amazing to me. as i’m not a programmer – at least, not yet 😉 -, i thought “why not start with the most beautiful language?”. so i decided to seriously learn smalltalk and maybe write a blog about it. thanks for your enlightenment. 😉

  • Ronaldo says:

    Should I answer in English or Portuguese. :-) Anyway, there it goes. I really think Smalltalk is the more beautiful language in the universe. There are others equally interesting, elegant and powerful, but none as beautiful. At least, that I know of, of course.

    That said, Smalltalk is also a good language to learn how to program in, both because of its design and philosophy. If you learn it well, you’ll be ready for more advanced language paradigms sooner than if you had learnt to program in other less advanced languages.

    If that’s enlightenment, I don’t know. Tell after you have tried the language.And do write the blog. It will be pretty cool to see somebody learn to program in the open.

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