[IAEP] [support-gang] Which Language?

Alan Kay alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 26 12:51:01 EDT 2009

Actually, I wasn't recommending it, but just pointing out that it does run everywhere (including the XO but doesn't need any particular OS), "is powerful", etc.

My deep beliefs are that "problems" have special natures whose solutions are greatly aided by languages/notations that fit them and supply points of view that help thinking and doing. (This was a pretty general belief in the 60s, and is part of the thrust of Ken Iverson's Turing Lecture, it was the driving force behind LOGO, and JOSS, and many other languages back then, including the early Smalltalks, the later Hypercard and Hypertalk, etc.)

So, to me, one of the first tasks when trying to make something happen, is not to try to cobble something from existing tools (they don't fit well and have huge biases built in) but to put together an extensible system that can help thinking about the problems and goals and doing them. So while I would not advocate any of the languages (and allied systems) around today for the problems of the XO and OLPC and SL, I would urge the making of such a system for making transportable "educational activities" of the kind that we are all interested in. 

Living in a networked world (also one of the main goals and premises of the 60s) means that software just has to be hardware and OS agnostic. This is easy to do and some people have been doing it for many decades. Rethinking this in the light of current state and goals is a good idea.

So I would say "not a programming language, but the metaprogramming of languages" and "not an operating system as a base" but "a base that is a transportable system" ...

Very best wishes,


From: DancesWithCars <danceswithcars at gmail.com>
To: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
Cc: Chris Leonard <cjlhomeaddress at gmail.com>; "Community Support Volunteers -- who help respond to "help AT laptop.org"" <support-gang at lists.laptop.org>; IAEP SugarLabs <iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>
Sent: Saturday, September 26, 2009 9:37:00 AM
Subject: Re: [IAEP] [support-gang] Which Language?

It doesn't get much better than a language
[co-] author Alan Kay recommending their

SmallTalk is "under the hood" as mentioned
before and a pure object oriented language,
in that everything is an object.

Xerox PARC machines (dolphins?) had smalltalk,
but I didn't have much access to them
so used Symbolics LispM and ZetaLisp/CommonLisp
instead. Emacs (yum install emacs
loadable on XO, has a lisp or sorts)
and MicroEmacs is in Open FirmWare

I'd add Squeak/Etoys/ Smalltalk-80 to the list
as it's in the base install, and good for
comparison as well.

Java OpenJDK might be a good one to
compare Smalltalk against,
but if the guy asking is a CompSci professor,
he probably already knows the languages,
and just asking about best XO implementations.

A capstone project for undergraduate seniors
might be creating your own language...

Now, I'll need to spend more time
with Squeak/ Etoys and less typing emails

Thanks Alan!

On Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 10:43 AM, Alan Kay
<alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Not to make this discussion more complicated, but ...
> Squeak/Etoys runs on everything whether Sugar or not, runs in the browser or
> as a standalone, and a Squeak "project" is completely independent of any
> environment except Squeak.
> Both Etoys and Scratch (and many other apps) are written entirely in Squeak
> (which is an open source version of Smalltalk-80 with a comprehensive
> library).
> Etoys at: http://www.squeakland.org/
> Squeak at: http://www.squeak.org/
> Cheers,
> Alan
> ________________________________
> From: Chris Leonard <cjlhomeaddress at gmail.com>
> To: "Community Support Volunteers -- who help respond to "help AT
> laptop.org"" <support-gang at lists.laptop.org>
> Cc: IAEP SugarLabs <iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>
> Sent: Saturday, September 26, 2009 7:33:22 AM
> Subject: Re: [IAEP] [support-gang] Which Language?
> Caryl.
> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Activity_Team
> A great deal of useful information about developing activities for the Sugar
> environment can be found on the Sugar Labs wiki.  I would recommend starting
> with this page and following links from there.
> http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Activity_Team
> When more detailed questions arise (as they will), the best place to address
> them is the Sugar Developers list:
> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/sugar-devel
> cjl
> On Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 10:25 AM, Caryl Bigenho <cbigenho at hotmail.com>
> wrote:
>> OK, the consensus is Python so far.  Can he do that strictly on XOs? How
>> does he package it to share as an Activity?  Can he do it on a Mac or PC and
>> then package it for Sugar?  I think he would really like to do it all on the
>> XO. Is this possible? How does it get from terminal mode to being a regular
>> Activity?
>> Thanks
>> Caryl
>> ________________________________
> _______________________________________________
> IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
> IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep

leave the wolves behind ;-)

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