[Pharo-project] Cobol is the new language to know?

Casimiro de Almeida Barreto casimiro.barreto at gmail.com
Mon Feb 21 22:05:06 CET 2011

Em 21-02-2011 16:07, csrabak at bol.com.br escreveu:
> Geert,
> I'll use my consultant's hat to contribute on this.  My company lives from selling advice on these matters.
> Notice that in the table of the referred link: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/legacy-languages-prove-lucractive-for-dying-breed-of-programmers/story-e6frgakx-1225993874788 which you point to, Cobol and Smalltalk share the same status of "Retire Now".
> So the Channel Register interpretation of the reports has not been that sharp at all.  Also, the company issuing the report is an Aussie centered firm, as the problems we're facing in the companies around the world (in the mainframe) is more what to do with the Natural/Adabas platform, where Natural is a higher level language than Cobol but has a high impedance for conversion to Java (w/o opening the can of worms of running Java in mainframes).
> The FUD about Smalltalk going to become unsupported must be counteracted by the pertinent Organizations, like ESUG in Europe and STIC, and of course the Software companies themselves like VW and Instantiations.  When I worked at Gartner, they had a similar table which included Smalltalk in the doom-way in "five years" ca. Y2K and recently they changed their mind a little bit: http://blogs.gartner.com/mark_driver/2008/10/09/remember-smalltalk/ and http://news.squeak.org/2008/10/11/smalltalk-is-cool-again-says-gartner/ (just a sample, Google is your friend if you're really interested).
> OTOH, notice that another Research company whose business is selling 'insight' says something about the primadonna du jour: http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/main/2010/12/java-is-a-dead-end-for-enterprise-app-development/
> --
> Cesar Rabak
Thing about these tales of "dying languages" & stuff like that is that
it's really hard to avoid conflicting interests while judging things.

I remember the golden age of Microsoft and its happy marriage with
Intel, when companies (Gartner included) hammered execs minds with the
TOC mantra (Microsoft as opposed to Unix/Linux - OSX not available at
that time & Apple starving of Jobs). Following that line of reasoning,
by now Oracle would be history, Linux would be history and Apple would
be the only thing preventing Microsoft running into anti-trust laws.
Obviously history unrolled different ways...

I don't see smalltalk "retiring" or "going six palms down" because from
the corporate vantage point smalltalk just didn't happen (yet). IMO,
some things prevented smalltalk going main stream:

(a) bad marketing from smalltalk players
(b) Java happened and its shortcomings weren't evident to community from
the start but Sun put a real bunch of money in it.
(c) Microsoft had its own ideas about development platforms (C#, .net, etc)
(d) Nobody presented a (really) suitable solution to large scale
problems (performance, scalability, security, stability, etc), so
corporations kept relying on "traditional" solutions (like C, C++, etc).
(e) "Mainframe world" is a completely different breed.

What's happening is that "software development world" is getting short
of solutions to jump to next Fermi levels of systems development. Just a
little look in industry and it becomes really visible. Some development
cycles in "software consumer products" are exceeding five years & costs
are surpassing hundreds of millions of US$.

IMO smalltalk and/or its derivatives may fill important niches. But
wether this happens or not will depend on several things. The most
important of all is the availability of a clean open solution, coherent,
supported and fully documented. Currently there are two divergent
families of "open smalltalk":

(a) gnu smalltalk
(b) squeak/pharo/cuis

Focusing in the squeak/pharo/cuis branch, I've noticed that pharo people
got really concerned in aspects that can attract market interest.
They're looking for funding, fighting to have "hired people" (meaning
under wages) minding "hairy aspects" of development, maintenance,
documentation and some sort of "standardization", etc. Collaborators
also produced interesting "printed material" (books, tutorials) but IMO
such material is still very academic in nature. People in industry likes
best "manual" stuff (like "foundation classes" with "methods" (messages
in the case) documented, etc). IMO (again) here lies a relevant problem:
there are "no foundation classes" (no "landmarks" or things that cannot
be easily changed) and it becomes apparent when people exchange ideas
about "keeping this" and "getting rid of that". At least debate is going
on and many issues have been addressed.

One thing I don't (yet) like in pharo is that there's no easy way of
applying fixes. Would be nice to have an update mechanism automating (at
least) fixes installation. I think this kind of thing is important to
market acceptance of smalltalk.


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