October 26, 2011

Smalltalk 2011, your conference

Did you know that the Smalltalks Conference will be held again this year? (http://www.fast.org.ar/smalltalks2011)

Maybe you’re wondering why you should care about a conference that deals with a language you most certainly don’t use for your job, and of whose existence you may not even be aware. But if you take 5' to read this I can tell you that you won’t regret it and that after that you will probably be eager to come to the conference :-)

To begin with, this conference isn’t only about a programming language, it’s about a technology and a development culture which still has a wide influence on our profession. For example, last year Gilad Bracha came to the conference. Who is Gilad Bracha? Maybe the name rings a bell... well, that’s because he’s one of the people behind Dart, Google’s new language (http://www.dartlang.org/). And what does that have to do with Smalltalk? Precisely: Gilad Bracha was one of the creators of Strongtalk (http://www.strongtalk.org/), the fastest Samlltalk at that time, which used adaptive compilation, Polimorphic Inline Caching (PIC), optional variable typing, etc. - all of which are being implemented now in Dart. This year one of his closest collaborators will visit us, Vassili Bykov, who implemented the UI of Newspeak, the latest language he has been working on.

But Smalltalk has to do not only with what’s happening with Dart, but with Ruby as well... Have you heard about MagLev? (http://ruby.gemstone.com/) It’s Ruby’s server for transactional and automatically persistent objects. Guess where that comes from... MagLev is the implementation of Ruby running on GemStone/S, a Transactional and Persistent object server for Smalltalk that is more than 25 years old and that has been bought by VMWare because of its great potential as a transactional memory manager for Java. If you didn’t know, read here: http://www.springsource.com/products/data-management/gemfire65

And where does the conference come in here? Martin McClure himself, responsible for MagLev, and GemStone architect Norman Green are coming! The guy in the know! Do you have any doubts about object bases? Now you know where the answers are.

But maybe you’re not interested in any if this... perhaps the way programming languages work or how they are implemented is not your scene, you just make web applications and only want the infrastructure to scale, to be quick at persisting information etc. In that case we also have a place for you. Have you heard of GLASS? (http://seaside.gemstone.com/) It’s the implementation of Seaside, a dynamic framework based on continuations for web applications using GemStone! (http://www.seaside.st/). That’s to say, you develop a web application just like a desktop application, and you get transactionality and persistence at the object level, for free... and what’s better, without relational databases!!! Yes!!!! No more hibernating, no more SQL, no more tables, only objects! It may sound crazy, you may think it doesn’t make sanse... my advice is, don’t draw any conclusions until you come and hear Dale Heinrichs, who is in charge of this product and who will tell us all the details and explain how it is impacting web developments.

Not convinced yet? OK, let me try just a bit more... Do you know Alan Kay? Turing award, “father of the personal computer”, creator of Smalltalk? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Kay) No, he’s not coming - yet. But Ian Piumarta and Kim Rose are, two of his closest collaborators in the projects he’s currently working on at his foundation dedicated to minimal programming languages such as OMeta and learning environments like SqueakLand (http://www.vpri.org/index.html). Are you interested in the use of computers for teaching? You can ask Kim. Would you like to know how a good VM is implemented? Ian will be right there to tell you.

If you’re still reading and haven’t scrolled down to the bottom of the page it means I haven’t convinced you yet... hmmm, let’s see what you say about this: MOOSE (http://www.moosetechnology.org), a platform for analyzing your programs - no matter if they are written in Java, C++, C# or Smalltalk, you can visualize your system’s design, not by using those little UML diagrams but by means of graphics specially designed to let you spot at a glance some bugs that may have crept in. Its developer, Tudor Girba, will be there to explain how it works, how it was developed and what you can do with it, because it’s free!

Maybe you’re already tired of reading. I don’t blame, but don’t you blame me either! It’s a great conference! You just can’t miss it! Because this is not all... if you want to find out more about the main Smalltalk development environments, both open source and commercial, you will have the chance to talk to Markus Denker from Pharo (http://www.pharo-project.org/home) and John O’Keefe, architect of VASmalltalk (http://www.instantiations.com/).

A little too much stuff that is industry-oriented? And what about research, do they keep researching on Smalltalk? Well, let me tell you that this will be the second year the conference has a section devoted entirely to research, with an enviable review committee and publication in journals. This way, if you’re doing research on objects and need to present your work at a widely recognized conference, Smalltalks is your place. And I wouldn’t like to forget the university... Smalltalk is still the language used to for teaching objects at almost every university, instead of a merely commercial language.

But I haven’t told you yet about the most important part of this, besides all these people that will be visiting us and with whom we can share our experiences: The Argentine Smalltalk community, one of the most important worldwide concerning this technology. This community has been putting their best efforts during the last five years to organize these conferences, and the last three years some of its members have won the 1st and the 3rd place at the ESUG Technology Award, an international award for the best developments in Smalltalk! And the best part of it is that the winners are from different universities - the UBA, the UAI and the UTN!

The community does not stop there. Did you know that there is an Argentine Smalltalk? A Smalltalk developed by an Argentinian and which is being used all over the world? It’s called CUIS and it was developed by Juan Vuletich (http://www.jvuletich.org/Cuis/Index.html), who is also working on the Morphic 3.0 project, and worked together with Alan Kay developing Squeak. Or did you know that the most widely used layer open source for communicating with relational databases from Pharo or Squeak was developed by an Argentinian too? Or that Fuel, the open source object serialization framework, was also created by an Argentinian? Are you familiar with these names - Mariano Martinez Peck, Guillermo Polito, Martín Dias, Esteban Lorenzano, and others? They are also part of our community and a constant reminder of the excellent technical quality we have in our country. Another Argentinian is the architect of the fastest Smalltalk VM in existence, that of VisualWorks (http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/main/products/visualworks/), and you can ask him how he was able to speed up the GC about 70% during the last year, and you will have the chance to listen to another Argentinian who has been a Smalltalker for more than 20 years... Can you imagine what your productivity would be if you had been working for 20+ years on the same language? On a language that keeps being productive to our profession? These people are part of this great community and will also be at this wonderful meeting... which is important not only for the people who are coming, but also for those that are already here!

I hope I’ve been able to convince you. I hope you’ve realized that this is not a conference about a programming language, but about a community of developers who want to share with you all they know, and also learn from you. If you want to help this community to keep growing, if you want this to be not just a conference of developers but also for developers, sign up here: http://www.fast.org.ar/smalltalks2011

It’s free, and I can grant you that you won’t regret it. You can see the list of talks at: http://www.fast.org.ar/smalltalks2011/talks

This year it takes place on November 3-5, at the University of Quilmes. And it won’t be restricted to the world of objects: this year we will also have a talk on objects by Fidel (Pablo E. Martínez López), one of the leading Argentinians in the field of Functional Programming, a community that shares the conviction that we are all, after all, programmers! See the response it is already getting: http://vimeo.com/30529851

We’ll be waiting for you!


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