Blog of Geof

Tuesday, June 26th

Alan Kay on The Early History of SmallTalk link →

This excellent read was sent to me recently by a friend. There’s a lot of amazing quotes throughout. Here’s just a few that caught my eye.

Alan Kay:

It is probably not an accident that the agglutinative languages all seem to have been instigated by committees, and the crystallization languages by a single person.

Philosophically, Smalltalk’s objects have much in common with the monads of Leibniz and the notions of 20th century physics and biology. Its way of making objects is quite Platonic in that some of them act as idealisations of concepts–Ideas–from which manifestations can be created. That the Ideas are themselves manifestations (of the Idea-Idea) and that the Idea-Idea is a-kind-of Manifestation-Idea–which is a-kind-of itself, so that the system is completely self-describing– would have been appreciated by Plato as an extremely practical joke [Plato].

In computer terms, Smalltalk is a recursion on the notion of computer itself. Instead of dividing “computer stuff” into things each less strong than the whole–like data structures, procedures, and functions which are the usual paraphernalia of programming languages–each Smalltalk object is a recursion on the entire possibilities of the computer. Thus its semantics are a bit like having thousands and thousands of computer all hooked together by a very fast network.

…my emotional involvement has always been centered on personal computing as an amplifier for human reach–rather than programming system design–and we haven’t got there yet.

I have a lot of strange nostalgia for the early days of computing and the internet. It's especially strange considering that I wasn't alive for most of it. Either way, I appreciate the idealism and, in some ways, naïveté regarding how computers would eventually be used and misused.