Smalltalk and ObjectStudio
have enabled us to build a true small-business framework which we can reutilize and tailor for each new customer context.

Serge Lehmann, EBC Informatique Project Manager

The Forgotten Smalltalk Language

Smalltalk, forgotten?  Certainly not by those of us who use, rely or enjoy arguably the most powerful computer language ever developed so far. But maybe the mainstream has forgotten it.

Here’s a short anecdote and analogy:

Every year in the summer, I go camping with my family by boat and tent. Both boating and camping are a great opportunity for using appropriate knots and bends in order to secure the boat to its dock, tying parts of the tent, tying a tarp shelter to the trees, etc. So every year before camping I try to re-familiarize myself with the most essential knots, concentrating on the handful that are the “best-in-class” or best in terms of utility, strength or versatility. Then there tends to be some variations in many of the best also, which makes it interesting.  So I practice my clove hitch and constrictor, bowlines, adjustable-grip hitch and figure eight to round out the basics.

Many years ago I stumbled upon a “new” knot, called the Zeppelin (or Rosendahl) bend. It is called a Zeppelin bend because it was used to tie down 46-ton airships back in the day. This knot is largely unknown (that has been changing) and was almost forgotten.  This is one of my favorites!  It is simple, strong, secure, beautiful and symmetrical. It is easy to tie and more importantly, untie.  It is the epitome of simplicity because, in a way, it is simply the combination of two overhand (simplest knot there is) knots combined to make something ultra-capable. To many, myself included, this is the best-in-class bend. And it was almost forgotten!

I have used it to tie a winch cable that had snapped back together for temporary use, and I have used it to tie nylon tow straps together to help someone pull a car out of a ditch.  It is amazing that after heavy forces have been applied, you can still actually untie it when needed.

So the Zeppelin bend is the Smalltalk of knots—simple, powerful, beautiful and useful. The best there is, yet almost forgotten. Thankfully, after the bend was rediscovered it is becoming much better known, and today I find it in most current compilations of knots and bends.

So, by analogy, can we make predictions about the re-discovery of Smalltalk?  My prediction is not “if” but “when.” People continue to innovate, experiment and build new Smalltalk implementations. At some point, a new innovation could cause Smalltalk to reach the tipping point and bring awareness and usage of the language back to the forefront.

Have some fun and learn the knots below! Comments are welcome.

– Arden Thomas (Product Manager, Cincom Smalltalk)