Saturday, August 11, 2007

Reflections on the Demise of Dolphin Smalltalk

The Smalltalk community lost one of its vendors this week. Dolphin Smalltalk threw in the towel. While reading this post, I reflected on Dolphin's developers and lucky13's comments on Dolphin and open source.

This all reminds me of my first encounter with smalltalk over 10 years ago. I had been a professional C++ developer for a little while and was curious about the origins of object oriented development. After doing a little digging I became interested in learning Smalltalk... until I saw the price tag.

At the time the only Smalltalk implementations I could find on a quick internet search cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. I was interested but not that interested, so I dropped the idea and it has taken years for me to return.

It is hard to win over developers to a new language and even harder when they have to fork over vast sums of money for the privilege. Look at the popular languages for the last few years (Ruby, Python, PHP, Java, Erlang, even C/C++), with all of them the first hit is free. Even Microsoft seems to have caught on in recent years; you have been able to get free versions of Visual Studio for a while and before that there was a command line C# compiler available for free.

While I have often paid for a development tool or library, it has only been after my first free hit. The only reason I have purchased Microsoft Development tools is because of the market pressure for a developer to work in that environment (it is where I make my living, even if C++/MFC/etc. aren't the "best").

I don't think that Smalltalk will die but there are lessons to learn in gaining the hearts of alpha geeks that Smalltalk can learn.

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