What is Smalltalk?

Smalltalk was one of the first object-oriented programming languages. It was also the first such language to popularize object-oriented programming (or OOP). Not surprisingly, then, Smalltalk has been enormously influential in the IT industry, inspiring subsequent language designs in Objective-C, Ruby, Python, CLOS, Java, PHP 5, Perl 6, Groovy, Scala, Dart, and so on.

The two principal hallmarks of Smalltalk are:
  1. Its incredible simplicity and minimalism. Smalltalk virtually has no syntax. Everything is done by message-passing to objects. In fact, you could nicely summarize all of Smalltalk's syntax on the back of a postcard!
  2. Its image-based persistence and "live coding and debugging" environment. Smalltalk's "image" is basically a system of live objects that you can manipulate and alter at runtime.

A Brief History

Smalltalk was born in 1972 and developed by Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls, and Adele Goldberg at the famed Xerox PARC institute, at the time one of the most prestigious research laboratories in the world. It was created in part for educational use and constructionist learning.

The first Smalltalk version made available to the public was in 1980 called Smalltalk-80. It has pretty much remained the "standard" reference.