Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Am I supposed to like Smalltalk?

When people talk in general about "high level, extensible, dynamic" languages on their blogs, they usually mention Smalltalk and Lisp in the same breath. Smalltalk programmers talk about their language in the same glowing terms as Lisp programmers; this prompts me to read about Smalltalk, and this weekend I tried out Squeak.

I think I'll stay with Lisp. I'm sure someone will say I didn't try it long enough, but there were a couple of issues I don't think will go away with extended use.

First of all is the environment/IDE. With Lisp/Emacs/Slime, or for that matter Java/Netbeans, to write method after method, you can just type. What I saw in Squeak was a bad combination of mousing and typing. You have to click in the '--all--' window of methods, then mouse down to the editing pane, and replace text, then save, then do it again for the next method. I'm sure this is a YMMV thing, but these mini-interruptions sure wouldn't keep me in 'flow' as much as just typing.

Second is the 'OOP all the way' flavor of the Smalltalk language. Sometimes a function is just a function, and doesn't need to be in a class. I prefer the options that Lisp provides, I use imperative, OO, and functional, depending on the problem.

All this is without bringing up macros, which I don't use that much now, but will do so more in the future, which will only widen the gap.

Have you tried Smalltalk, and why do you prefer Lisp?

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