Smalltalk on the JVM: It’s Time

Mark Roos
CEO Roos Instruments

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There has been much talk about how to make Smalltalk more appealing to the programmers of today.  Solutions from a killer application to just keep moving ahead abound.  But Smalltalk today has not changed much where is was in the late 1990’s, a niche solution with a small but committed group of users.

One suggestion which keeps surfacing  is to make Smalltalk a member of a larger group, so it becomes a safer and easier selection. One of these groups could be the Java ecosystem.  Java has a lot to offer in the way of available code, experts and the safety of large corporate backing,  but does moving there cost Smalltalk too much?  Prior attempts have involved interpreters, translators and text based cross compilers.  All of these lose some of the power of the entire Smalltalk environment.

There is a way to move Smalltalk to Java without losing any of Smalltalk’s attributes while still gaining all of what Java has to offer.  This is by hosting Smalltalk on the Java Virtual Machine (jvm)

Recent additions to the jvm for supporting dynamic languages make this possible.  This presentation shows how RI implemented such a solution  and what we discovered in the process.  RI’s efforts have been released as open source so others can follow the same path.  We believe that this path leads to a resurgence of Smalltalk.  After all while Alan Kay has said ‘it takes 20 years for a good idea to make it to the mainstream, perhaps the best take 30.

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