Daily Archives: June 27, 2008

The early history of Smalltalk

Today I wanted to comment a text, in my opinion, a “must be read” by all those of us dedicated to software development. It is a writing of Alan Kay, about the early history of Smalltalk:


It is an excellent text to read, and that has influences simply beyond Smalltalk. It is a history of how some ideas were arising, within the American community of software development. How the programming with objects was arising, and how the form to interact with the present computers was taking form.

Read, for example, how Kay detects  some germinal ideas (data along with behaviour) in developments of the Air Force, that today we would see very remote of the OOP. Read on his contact with Lisp, and Seymour Papert. Read on the internal problems of Xerox, the competition with DEC, how some ideas were almost generated by chance. Read on Simula, Euler, IPL predecessor of Lisp. Read on the Sketchpad of Sutherland (who I found by first time in some historical revision of the Scientific American). It is a delicious and enlighten reading, at least for me.

Kay has been having an idea for years, that I share: the idea that the machine, and computing in general, must serve to us to expand our human capacities. Excellent idea. It is what of some form also today we are reaching using Internet. Today, branches of the knowledge and human actions, have been leveraged by software, the hardware and everything what it has happened in our profession in the last decades.

Years ago, people guessed that the space trips were going to revolutionize human history. That has still not happened. But of some form subproduct of the cold war and the space race, the development of the computing science (we remember its modern beginnings in the second war, and the appearance of the cybernetics impelled by military subjects) and of Internet, is what it has caused a change, that is reaching to great part of the humanity.

To read the history of Kay is indispensable to be understanding what it has happened. Somebody that has said ” the best form to dominate the future, is inventing it” (approximated phrase, reads the text, to see where it arose exactly).

Angel ” Java” Lopez