Dependence on Programming Experts

Rodney Somerstein rodneys at
Thu Jul 6 12:23:08 EDT 2006

>Dan & Rodney:
>O.K., now, just as I was salivating over the potential usefulness and joy of
>using Squeak, Rodney comes along and throws water all over me.  Which is it?
>Who is right?  I haven't yet had time to look at the actual Squeak language,
>but I did see that incredibly direct and simple "kids" example of using
>Squeak over at SqueakLand, or is it SmallTalkLand?  EToys.  And then there
>is the integration of all the functionality that the Alice environment
>offered, brought over into SqueakLand, or whatever it is called.  Is it all
>too good to be really true?
>My initial impressions of this environment were that it teaches new users,
>even kids, to apprehend, to comprehend the concepts involved in programming,
>so that, after those things are grasped, then the cryptic programming
>terminology can be introduced which, if those are introduced first, confuses
>the heck out of anyone wanting to learn to program.  Even if a programming
>language is English-like, what is needed beyond and prior to learning lines
>of "code" is really understanding sequences of events and why they need to
>be in the order that they need to be in to get the machine to respond
>properly.  Right?


Smalltalk and the Squeak implementation in particular are good first 
programming languages. However, Smalltalk tends to be very 
specialized and it is hard to produce an application that you can 
give to other people to install. If you just want to learn and have 
something you can play with, then Squeak isn't a bad choice. As Dan 
stated, though, it is hard to produce applications that you can then 
deploy elsewhere.

The main problem, in my view, is that Smalltalk environments are 
pretty much unlike anything else you will encounter on your computer. 
Yes, you can learn programming concepts. But, you will then likely 
end up learning another language afterward to produce usable 
software. Unfortunate, but that is the current state of the art. As 
Smalltalk has been around for a long time, that is unlikely to change 
anytime in the near future.

Programming itself is actually pretty easy. You just have to take 
small steps. Understand that you won't sit down and in one night 
understand how to do everything. If you work through tutorials in 
your chosen environment, you will learn basic concepts in pretty much 
any language you choose. After awhile, you will be able to combine 
those concepts to create very involved applications. Programming is 
only hard if you look at it as a whole. The pieces are generally 
easy. The terminology, which you rightly complained about, comes 
along with that learning.


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