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Smalltalk Musings



I have a few musings on Smalltalk and its possible role in themes of
interest to many of us. First, a comment on the "mailer" I tried last
night:

At 2:24 PM 8/15/95, Mats Bergstrom wrote:
>> The manufacturer is apparently acting as the collection point, and any name
>> can be put into the From: field.
>
>Then, effectively, Quasar is a new(?) kind of remailer.
>There was no got.net in the headers I could see. The
>next question is how they log incoming agents.

I discovered that the "-- Tim May" added to the end was by them, not me.
Just coincidence that I usually add "--Tim May" or "-- Tim May" before my
automatic sig block.

This was an experimental mailer included--"for educational purposes"--in
the latest Developer's Release of SmalltalkAgents. It has a few specific
things hardwired into it, such as using qks.com as its SMTP server.

Not a very effective remailer, as nothing cryptographically strong is
included. However, it shows that more and more languages and environments
are "speaking TCP/IP" and that integration of this stuff into high level
language environments is here. Java and HotJava do similar things, perhaps
even more powerfully. And obviously Unix/Linux tools are the standard here.

A few words on Smalltalk, an old language that is gaining in popularity.

(Smalltalk is doing pretty well for large projects. Several banks and
trading firms have aggressive Smalltalk programs, preferring it to C++ for
large, object-oriented projects. The company behind NetBank and NetCash,
SoftwareAgents, is using SmalltalkAgents. The leader in Smalltalk is of
course ParcPlace, which recently merged with Digitalk. Lots of info is
available on Smalltalk on the Web.)

The richness of Smalltalk lies in the extensive class libraries. Everything
is an object, no exceptions. (My personal interest--my asbestos suit is now
on--is in looking at economic exchanges and finding the classes and
methods, sort of "the ontology of money," and working on implementing
them.)

A few words of history. Most of you know that the current "graphical user
interface" (GUI) of the Macintosh and (more recently) Windows and X, etc.,
goes back to two main sources: the Xerox work by Aland Kay, Dan Ingalls,
and others on Smalltalk and the Xerox and MIT work on Lisp Machines. The
machines from Xerox Parc in the late 70s had the features we now think of
as central: bit-mapped screen, windows, menus, pop-up dialogs, mouse and
movable cursor, variable fonts, etc. (And the Xerox Parc folks were of
course influenced by the work of others, including Doug Engelbart at
Stanford Research Institute and the object-oriented language Simula.)

I'm not advocating that anyone use Smalltalk. Use what feels right, or what
your companies and groups expect. C++ is without doubt the most popular.
But diversity is good, so Python, Java, [email protected], TCL, Lisp, Smalltalk, Perl,
Eiffel, Scheme, and even REXX all have roles to play, especially in specfic
situations. If Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen had dropped "hypertext"
when it was "dead and buried," where would we be today?

More info on SmalltalkAgents and their other products can be found at
http://www.qks.com/ . The Macintosh version is currently their only
supported platform, with a Windows NT (maybe Win '95, but doubtful) version
due later this year, and various Unix versions due after that.

They have some advances over ParcPlace's VisualWorks, but their longterm
success is not assured. Nor is my longterm success assured. :-}


-TCM





---------:---------:---------:---------:---------:---------:---------:----
Timothy C. May            | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected] (Got net?)  | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
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Corralitos, CA            | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^756839    | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."