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Who Killed Smalltalk?

Richard Kenneth Eng
Former systems programmer for ATI Technologies (now AMD).
・2 min read

I frequently hear people tell me that Smalltalk is a dead language. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would like to dispel that myth once and for all.

Smalltalk has an active user community. There are three major commercial Smalltalk flavours and no fewer than seven open source flavours!

Commercial Smalltalks:

  1. Cincom’s VisualWorks
  2. Instantiations’ VA Smalltalk
  3. GemTalk Systems’ GemStone/S

Open source Smalltalks:

  1. Pharo
  2. Squeak
  3. Cuis Smalltalk
  4. GNU Smalltalk
  5. Dolphin Smalltalk
  6. Amber
  7. Hoot Smalltalk

Smalltalk is used by many companies in the financial industry, for example, JP Morgan, Desjardins, and UBS.

Smalltalk is used in manufacturing, telecom, transportation, utilities, and government, for example, Florida Power & Light, Texas Instruments, Telecom Argentina, Orient Overseas Container Lines, BMW, and Siemens AG. The U.S. military used Smalltalk to write a battle simulator called JWARS. Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s national cryptologic agency, uses Smalltalk.

Pharo itself has a large number of commercial users around the globe: see Pharo success stories. Thales, the French engineering giant, uses Pharo for virtual reality application: Virtual Reality Live at Thales with Pharo

I used Pharo and the Teapot web framework to create this website for a major programming competition next year: teams.jrmpc.ca.

Smalltalk is not a mainstream language, but it’s no more dead than any other non-mainstream language like Ceylon, Clojure, Crystal, Dart, Elixir, Elm, F#, Haskell, Haxe, Idris, Julia, Lua, Nim, OCaml, and Racket. Some of these languages have enjoyed considerable hype.

Further evidence that Smalltalk is alive can be found at this year’s Smalltalks 2019 international conference to be held in Neuquén, Argentina. It’s the 13th edition of this annual event. (I was a keynote speaker at last year’s conference.) Could a dead language elicit this kind of interest?

Also, there's the 27th edition of the ESUG conference to be held in Cologne, Germany.

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