So I have relayed in other spaces I once asked two mentors of mine how to wrap my head around this new Object Oriented thing. Both said without hesitation, “Smalltalk.” Both said if I could come to grips with Smalltalk, then I was headed in the right direction. They also warned that all other Object Oriented languages “cheated” in some small way. I didn’t press for details on the “cheating” so don’t ask. I would not likely have understood at the time anyway.
In the end, I never did learn Smalltalk. It turned out, just hanging out with these two was enough for it finally click for me. Soon, I was diagramming in UML and Object Orienting my way around the IDE. But I still had the book. In this case, it was “Squeak: Learn Programming with Robots” by Stephane Ducasse. In more recent years, I found myself with the opportunity to teach Middle and High School, home-schooled students about programming. I decided to pull that book off the shelf again and give it a try. After all, it was specifically written for this age group. Well, I thought I might lose the High Schoolers, but I needn’t have worried. They were just as thrilled with the book as the Middle Schoolers and had a blast.
The problem with this book, as well as the follow-on book “Squeak by Example” is the associated websites and resources had long since disappeared. There were of course some other challenges with reviving such an old version of Squeak. With some desperate (and lucky) Googleing (and some very kind email correspondence with Dr. Ducasse) I was able to unearth what I needed. However, I still felt a sense of loss here. To make things “worse” these books are still available for purchase. Even worse, I believe them still to be REMARKABLE resources for beginning programmers. With this in mind, I decided I needed to resurrect these resources and bring back to life this wonderful environment.
Yes, I know, there are many more “modern” and “useful” languages out there, but let’s get serious for a moment. We are not training Middle and High Schoolers for jobs! And almost any respected member of the computer industry will emphasize the value of learning multiple languages and types of languages. In that sense, Smalltalk (and these books) are as good a place as any to start.
With that, and the voices of my mentors still echoing in my head (and with a lot of help from the Way Back Machine), I give you, Squeak!