Core Interaction Spring 2018

Learning about Smalltalk (Xerox, Alan Kay, PARC)


Thinking back of the video of Alan Kay’s lecture from last week, we will notice Marian Goldeen.

Below is a letter she wrote, describing her experience learning using SmallTalk.

Learning About Smalltalk, by Marian Goldeen

My name is Marian Goldeen. I’m an eighth grade student at Jordan Junior High School in Palo Alto, California, and I would like to tell you about how I got started working with computers at Xerox and the class I taught. It all started in December, 1973 when I was in the seventh grade, There were four people in my class who were interested in taking a course about the computer language Smalltalk at Xerox.

When we first started we were shown how to start the machines up, and file in our one file, which had already been written onto our disks. These files contained some programs that would draw boxes like this.These boxes could turn on their axes, grow, and shrink. Later on we learned how to change the programs which had been created and drew these boxes so that we could do different things with them, for instance, move them to different places on the screen.

There was a little rectangular object to the side of the keyboard, called the mouse. When you moved the mouse around a corresponding pointer on the screen moved around too. We learned how to make the boxes follow the mouse pointer.

After we had learned just about everything there was to know about boxes we were able to create our own programs (Gulp). I don’t know what the two boys in the class did, but Colleen and I created a painting program. It was fairly complicated. To run it you first had to set up the menu. You would point with the mouse to the box that contained the shape you wanted to draw with, then press the top mouse button. Now the shape would be a paint brush and you could draw pictures.

“Smalltalk” is an interactive language developed by Alan Kay at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. It is easy to learn and use, has powerful text display and manipulation capabilities, extensive graphics and animation features, and very high computational speed on several parallel levels. It runs an a small computer specifically dedicated to running Smalltalk and has not, at this time, been implemented on any general purpose computer. We’ll have more on Smalltalk in future issues.

Source: Learning about Smalltalk (Xerox, Alan Kay, PARC)



p.s. Goldeen has since become a developer at Apple