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

csrabak at bol.com.br csrabak at bol.com.br
Mon Feb 21 22:51:01 CET 2011

Em 21/02/2011 18:05, Casimiro de Almeida Barreto < casimiro.barreto at gmail.com > escreveu:

> 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/
> > HTH
> >
> > -- 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

I think you mean "TCO" here ;-)

> 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...

>From a point of view of corporate IT, Apple _is_ history and Linux is
only present in appliances.  No tsunami happened in the server
industry that shakes Microsoft dominance...  In fact, Linux was the
great bogeyman for Unix flavours.

Yes it unrolled different in the details, but quite much as advertised

> I don't see  smalltalk "retiring" or "going six  palms down" because
> from  the  corporate  vantage  point smalltalk  just  didn't  happen
> (yet). 

Well, it happened at its time, but didn't got enough momentum to
become the COBOL of OO languages.

> IMO, some things prevented smalltalk going main stream:
> (a) bad marketing from smalltalk players

I think we can agree on this.

> (b) Java happened and its shortcomings weren't evident to community from
> the start but Sun put a real bunch of money in it.

Also, the moment in history and the way as the language was deployed
(no competing flavours or dialects, etc.) was different than when
Smalltalk was introduced.

Java was mainly a means to program in OO, while Smalltalk had to
convince people of way different paradigm, and learn a language.

> (c) Microsoft had its own ideas about development platforms (C#, .net, etc)

Of course!  They make a living selling proprietary stuff! Eons ago,
they got rid of their COBOL business, they Fortran business, etc.
They attempted to 'embrace and extend' Java and when it backfired they
got rid of "VisualJ" and went .Net...

> (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).

Yep, in the nineties all the Smalltalk projects that I had crossed
were of the nature more or less: "...we've this solution developed in
Smalltalk and need to port to C++ in order to solve the __ problem,
where the blank is one of the above plus some other created by

> (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.


Cesar Rabak

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