The Reinvention of Instantiations

Instantiations is a major Smalltalk vendor with a long and illustrious history. This year, it reinvented itself with a huge rebranding exercise:

I like it very much. I love the aesthetics. This will greatly enhance Instantiations’ image (pun intended) within the programming community.

In addition to the rebranding, Instantiations has been very actively developing its product (VAST) with all kinds of innovations and improvements. I am particularly impressed by the efforts of Instantiations’ lead software engineer, Mariano Martínez Peck.

Keep an eye on this company. I believe it has a bright future.

Top Programming Languages for 2021

TIOBE Index for July 2021

  1. C
  2. Java
  3. Python
  4. C++
  5. C#
  6. Visual Basic
  7. JavaScript
  8. PHP
  9. Assembly language
  10. SQL
  11. Classical Visual Basic
  12. R
  13. Go
  14. Fortran
  15. Groovy
  16. Swift
  17. Ruby
  18. Perl
  19. MATLAB
  20. Delphi/Object Pascal

PYPL for July 2021

  1. Python
  2. Java
  3. JavaScript
  4. C#
  5. C/C++
  6. PHP
  7. R
  8. TypeScript
  9. Objective-C
  10. Swift
  11. Kotlin
  12. Matlab
  13. VBA
  14. Go
  15. Rust
  16. Ruby
  17. Visual Basic
  18. Ada
  19. Scala
  20. Dart

IEEE Spectrum: Top Programming Languages 2020

  1. Python
  2. Java
  3. C
  4. C++
  5. JavaScript
  6. R
  7. Arduino
  8. Go
  9. Swift
  10. Matlab
  11. Ruby
  12. Dart
  13. SQL
  14. PHP
  15. Assembly
  16. Scala
  17. HTML
  18. Kotlin
  19. Julia
  20. Rust

GitHut 2.0 for 2nd Quarter 2021

  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. Java
  4. Go
  5. Ruby
  6. TypeScript
  7. C++
  8. PHP
  9. C#
  10. C
  11. Scala
  12. Shell
  13. Dart
  14. Rust
  15. Kotlin
  16. Swift
  17. PowerShell
  18. Groovy
  19. Elixir
  20. DM

The Most Popular Programming Languages — 2020 Q2 (from Statistics and data)

  1. Python
  2. JavaScript
  3. Java
  4. C#
  5. PHP
  6. C++
  7. C
  8. R
  9. Swift
  10. Objective-C
  11. Kotlin

Closing Remarks

These different indices use different bases for their rankings, so it’s rather like comparing apples and oranges. But we can still draw some interesting insights.

Once high-flying languages like Clojure, Crystal, F#, Haskell, and Nim are notably absent in the top 20 lists. TypeScript figures prominently in two lists but is absent in all the others.

It is my hope that Smalltalk will someday appear in the top 20 lists.

Brain Cancer?

Last night, I had a premonition in my sleep that I was going to get brain cancer. It literally scared me awake.

And do you know what was the first thought on my mind? Not that I was going to leave my friends and family behind. Not that I wouldn’t survive to the average Canadian life expectancy of 80 years (for men). Not that I would miss the upcoming Star Trek series with Michelle Yeoh (“Section 31”).

No, my first thought was whether I would live long enough to shepherd next summer’s Camp Smalltalk Supreme event to success. If I die without seeing this through, I’ll never be able to live with myself.

So, pray to whatever god you believe in that I don’t get brain cancer, please.

Thanks.

50th Birthday Celebrations of Programming Languages

I did a quickie survey of 50th birthday celebrations for programming languages. I was disappointed to find very few legitimate events.

Now, obviously, only programming languages created before 1972 could have had 50th birthday celebrations, languages like FORTRAN, LISP, COBOL, BASIC, and Pascal, to name the few living, prominent, surviving languages today.

For these, I found this event for FORTRAN: Fortran’s Fiftieth Birthday. Not exactly a big deal. No birthday banquet nor free swag that I could determine.

There was this event for LISP, but it was couched in a larger, general event: The Evolution of Lisp. Again, no birthday banquet nor free swag.

For the rest, some people published articles to celebrate the birthdays. Borrring.

Don’t major programming languages deserve real birthday celebrations? Maybe I’m being silly.

Will there be 50th birthday celebrations for C, Prolog, Ada?

Anyway, I invite people to attend the 50th birthday celebration for Smalltalk at Camp Smalltalk Supreme next year. It should be a real blast!

Announcing Camp Smalltalk Supreme

I have the green light to proceed with Camp Smalltalk Supreme, the 2022 50th anniversary edition of Camp Smalltalk.

It’s scheduled for June 10-12, 2022 at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

I’ve confirmed Adele Goldberg, Dan Ingalls, and Kent Beck as keynote speakers for this very special event! Adele and Dan were part of the original team at Xerox PARC, and Kent is a renowned Smalltalk pioneer.

Here is the official website: https://campsmalltalksupreme.wordpress.com/.
Here is the promo video: https://youtu.be/oV4UmevDz8k.
Here is the GoFundMe campaign: https://gofund.me/225341e3.

I hope many people will attend this event. It should be a blast.

What is the Glamorous Toolkit?

Here is a groundbreaking tool for software developers.

Glamorous Toolkit is the moldable development environment. It is a live notebook. It is a flexible search interface. It is a fancy code editor. It is a software analysis platform. It is a data visualization engine. All in one.

Tudor Girba gives a nice presentation about it:

Here’s the open source code: https://github.com/feenkcom/gtoolkit.

This may revolutionize software development in the coming years. It’s very exciting.

Rust and Smalltalk are perfectly complementary!

Rust has been selected as the Most Loved programming language at StackOverflow Developer Survey for five consecutive years! No other language commands so much respect.

Rank20162017201820192020
1RustRustRustRustRust
2SwiftSmalltalkKotlinPython/TSTypeScript
3F#TypeScriptPythonKotlinPython
4ScalaSwiftTypeScriptWebAssemblyKotlin
5GoGoGoSwiftGo
6ClojurePythonSwiftClojureJulia
7ReactElixirJavaScriptElixirDart
8HaskellC#C#GoC#
9PythonScalaF#/ClojureC#Swift
10C#Clojure/JSBash/ShellJavaScriptJavaScript
StackOverflow Developer Survey’s Most Loved

And for good reasons. Rust is greatly lauded for:

  • memory safety guaranteed by the compiler (type system) and making garbage collection unnecessary
  • close-to-the-metal native code performance
  • efficient multi-core concurrency
  • zero-cost abstractions

These strengths are Smalltalk’s weaknesses, but Smalltalk’s strengths are also Rust’s weaknesses:

  • supremely simple object-oriented programming model (suitable for children and beginners)
  • supremely scalable object-oriented programming model (Alan Kay called Smalltalk a “software internet”)
  • flexibility of dynamic typing and late binding
  • super productivity and flexibility due to live coding (up to 5X more productive!)
  • portability of language virtual machine (byte code like in JVM and CLR)
  • convenience of image-based computing (persistable containerized environment)

(While multi-core concurrency is possible in Smalltalk as demonstrated by the RoarVM, unfortunately this is an experimental project that has lain fallow for a decade.)

Both programming languages are very useful in their respective domains, but neither can be used universally for all applications. The nice thing, however, is that these languages are perfectly complementary. Between them, there isn’t anything you can’t do.

If you need critical, real-time performance, Rust is your ticket, although programming is considerably more complicated. For just about everything else, Smalltalk is tickety-boo: web, desktop, mobile, data science, machine learning, Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality, enterprise business computing, and so on. And it’s much easier, too.

It’s worth noting that in 2017, StackOverflow’s survey voted Smalltalk as the second Most Loved language after Rust. Why it disappeared from all subsequent surveys is anybody’s guess.

Anatomy of a Programming Competition

Introduction

This is a case study of The James Robertson Memorial Programming Competition, which was created to promote the Smalltalk programming language. This is a case study by example, showing what was done and how it was done.

Promotion and Marketing

Advertising the competition at CBC.ca proved ineffective and costly. The click-through rate was infinitestimally small. Otherwise, we relied heavily on YouTube and social media.

YouTube Videos

Several promo videos were created:

using Powtoon
using Animaker
using Animaker

Blogs and Social Media

The main social media sites used included Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, Hacker News, Instagram, and Quora.

Competition Websites

Two websites were created, one for advertising the competition and the other for operating the competition (team registrations and team submissions). The advertising website has been archived. This website was based on WordPress.com. The domain name, jrmpc.ca, was purchased from Google Domains.

The advertising website is also archived live at jrmpc.wordpress.com.

The operational website has also been archived. In the home page, Internet Archive has a problem with the embedded YouTube link, but the unplayable video is the same as the first one shown above in the YouTube Videos section (Mission: Impossible-themed).

The operational website was hosted at OVH (VPS SSD 1 running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS). The web application was written in Pharo in conjunction with the Teapot framework. The domain name, teams.jrmpc.ca, was configured at Google Domains, and the PositiveSSL certificate was purchased from Namecheap.

Contacting Schools

High schools across Canada were contacted by email, as well as snail mail. Attempts to contact various school boards were unproductive.

T-shirts and Swag

Our budget only allowed for T-shirts (from Big Mouth Promotions). Here is the design (for the front of the shirt):

using GIMP and Inkscape
examples from a team

The T-shirts were sent to all the participating teams; they were a big hit with everyone. About 100 shirts were made available for a public giveaway at the awards ceremony at Ryerson.

If budget allows, I think Smalltalk-styled coffee mugs would be a very nice giveaway.

Competition Software

The open source software for the JRMPC Organiser is now available, thanks to the great effort by Ben Coman who developed it.

JRMPC Organiser screenshot

Awards Ceremony

Trophies

The trophies for First, Second, and Third Prizes all came from Innovative Imprints in Pickering, Ontario.

Venue

The awards ceremony was scheduled for Saturday, April 18, 2020 on the campus of Ryerson University. However, due to COVID-19, a virtual ceremony was conducted instead. Here was the result:

Lessons Learned

Since this is the first edition of JRMPC, there were bound to be some teething pains. We learned several important lessons:

  • First, the website should’ve been clearer about team composition, esp. the fact that a team must comprise four students. No exceptions.
  • Second, the website should’ve been bilingual so that Quebec would participate.
  • Third, better instructional materials should’ve been provided to the teams. Our existing tutorials and such were found wanting. Some teams complained that Pharo was too difficult to learn.
  • Fourth, the competition software should’ve been fully prepared, tested and debugged by the start of competition. During the course of the competition, bugs were found and the competition maps revealed weaknesses.
  • Fifth, a larger team of volunteers should’ve been assembled. This competition entailed a great deal more work than I imagined.
  • Sixth, we were fortunate that we only had 30 registered teams. In hindsight, we weren’t really set up to handle more. In order to scale the competition properly, we’d need more money, more volunteers, and we’d need to limit the competition to 100 registered teams. Also, only the first 30 teams would receive T-shirts.

Despite it all, we are pleased at the outcome.

Conclusion

The competition was a smashing success. Thirty teams registered from across Canada. Videos were created for each of the five rounds. I’ll just show the first and last of them here to avoid repetitiveness:

Hopefully, the information here can help you with your own programming competition.

Smalltalk’s Successor

Alan Kay, one of the co-creators of Smalltalk, has said that he’d like to see Smalltalk evolve beyond what it is today. He believes that Smalltalk is stagnating and failing to advance the software industry. While I agree with him in principle, I also take a more pragmatic position. I believe that we cannot wait for this mythical new programming language and that we must use whatever we have available today because the software industry is in crisis. The demand for more and better software created in a timely manner is continually increasing and it’s causing considerable stress for programmers and users alike.

At the moment, there is only one programming language that has any hope of meeting this demand. I do not posit this lightly nor frivolously. Here are the key reasons why Smalltalk is perfectly suited to this mission…

Smalltalk has a great and storied history.

A programming language ideally should command respect, and there’s no better way to do this than by demonstrating a wonderful record of achievements. History matters.

Smalltalk pioneered the language virtual machine and JIT compilation. It created the world’s first modern IDE. It introduced the MVC architectural pattern. It pioneered TDD (test-driven development) and XP (extreme programming). It made live coding easily accessible. It pioneered the development of object-oriented databases. It created the world’s first refactoring browser. It was instrumental in developing GUI and WYSIWYG.

begin at 19:28

It influenced the design of Objective-C, Ruby, Java, PHP, Perl, Python, Groovy, Scala, Dart, and other languages.

It popularized object-oriented programming starting with the now-iconic cover of BYTE magazine.

August 1981

Smalltalk has a proven track record.

Smalltalk has been used in the enterprise for more than three decades. In the 1990s, it achieved the second highest object-oriented market share in the world after C++. IBM even chose Smalltalk as the centrepiece of their VisualAge enterprise initiative.

Today, there are three major Smalltalk vendors with thousands of enterprise users around the globe: Cincom, Instantiations, and GemTalk Systems. Many of these enterprise users are big names in the financial industry, manufacturing sector, shipping, utilities, etc., for example, JP Morgan, Desjardins, UBS, Florida Power & Light, Texas Instruments, Telecom Argentina, Siemens, and COSCO.

Smalltalk is incredibly simple and easy to use.

It’s even simpler and easier than Python! The syntax is as simple as you can imagine. It fits on a post card!

Smalltalk is extremely flexible and versatile.

Smalltalk has developed an extensive ecosystem. In the web space, you have the Seaside and Teapot web frameworks, and Amber and PharoJS for front-end development. In data science and machine learning, you have the PolyMath library, Roassal data visualization, and language bindings for TensorFlow and Keras. For Internet of Things, you have the PharoThings platform. For robotics, you have the PhaROS platform. Smalltalk is great for virtual reality!

Smalltalk is the most productive programming language in the world.

A study by Namcook Analytics showed that Smalltalk was, on average, twice as productive as JavaScript, C++, Go, Java, PHP, Python, and C#. Experienced Smalltalkers regularly develop software up to 5X faster than in conventional languages.

Smalltalk’s remarkable live coding capability plays a critical role here. Only two other significant languages support live coding: Forth and Lisp. But Smalltalk makes its very easily accessible.

Smalltalk is infinitely scalable.

Thanks to its pure object-oriented model which views the Smalltalk environment as a sort of “software internet,” applications can grow in a manner resembling the Internet. It has also been likened to biological systems of cells.

begin at 2:16

Any new programming language, no matter how superior to Smalltalk, would lack history, a track record, an ecosystem, a user base, and mindshare. Marketing the language would face an uphill battle and growing the language’s mindshare would take a considerable amount of time.

Meanwhile, we wait and we wait and we continue fighting a backlog of software that demands to be written.

Smalltalk Alternatives

There are newer languages that compete with Smalltalk, such as Dart, Go, Julia, Kotlin, Rust, Scala, Swift, TypeScript. Some are very large and complex (Kotlin, Rust, Scala, Swift, TypeScript). Some are used in narrow domains (Julia, Rust, Swift, TypeScript). None are as simple and easy as Smalltalk. None are as productive and scalable. None support live coding. None are as elegant.

So, really, the best choice we have today is Smalltalk. It comes in various flavours to meet various needs:

  • Instantiations’ VA Smalltalk for enterprise markets
  • Cincom’s VisualWorks for enterprise markets
  • GemTalk Systems’ GemStone/S for high-volume, high-availability transaction processing
  • Pharo for open source requirements
  • Squeak for the education market

Is there really a need for a successor?

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