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The Industrial Use of Smalltalk

Someone wrote to me saying, “I get that Smalltalk might be fun and pure and all, but have any industrial strength, real-world applications been built using it? Learning a programming language is a combination of personal taste and real world practical need. I’m not sure I see any of the latter here.”

Smalltalk is currently used by thousands of enterprise users across the globe. They are supported by no fewer than three major Smalltalk vendors: Instantiations, GemTalk Systems, and Cincom. There is also the powerful open-source organization, Pharo Consortium.

Smalltalk is a favourite among enterprise users in the know. They regard Smalltalk as a secret weapon that confers a competitive advantage: getting a product to market in the shortest period of time.

Smalltalk is known to be much more productive than any other major programming language, according to a 2017 study by Capers Jones.

Productivity is not a matter of taste. For many businesses, speed of development is absolutely crucial. I have yet to work for a company that didn’t want to finish a software project as soon as possible.

Among the most prominent current Smalltalk users are JP Morgan, UBS, Thales (the French engineering giant), Lam Research (critical in the semiconductor supply chain), Telecom Argentina, Florida Power & Light, Canada Border Services Agency, Siemens AG, and Texas Instruments.

It’s easy for people to overlook Smalltalk because it “only” has a few thousand corporate users. This number pales in comparison to the millions of users worldwide.

But let’s put this in perspective. Smalltalk still has a larger community than currently “hot” languages such as Clojure, Elixir, Julia, and Rust (though admittedly, Rust is rising fast). Smalltalk is the world’s best-kept secret and that is very unfortunate. Imagine what Smalltalk could do for the IT industry.


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