Common Smalltalk VM Summit

8 October, 2006

David Griswold, one of main developers of the Strongtalk system, writes:

Hi everybody,

Dan Ingalls and I have been talking, trying to figure out what to do about the major opportunity offered by the recent release of the Strongtalk virtual machine as open source.

Rather than keep this discussion to ourselves, our thinking was that this would be the perfect time to call a kind of summit, with representatives of all the major Smalltalk implementations, both open-source and commercial.
The topic: what if we could build a shared high-performance open-source platform suitable for hosting a number of different Smalltalk systems, one that we can all share and work on together?

While the details of the type-feedback techniques used in the Strongtalk VM are arcane, the benefits are not: *much* higher performance for general Smalltalk code. Dan, myself, and many others who know about type-feedback and the pioneering Self system, have been dreaming for many years about the possibility that someday this technology might make it into mainstream Smalltalk VMs. It would take Smalltalk performance to a whole new level.

That someday is here now, if the different factions within the Smalltalk community can pull together a little bit so that we don’t miss this opportunity.

There may be debate within the community about some aspects of the Strongtalk project, for example the type system, but we should all be able to agree on the simple idea that a whole lot more performance would be a Good Thing. Now a huge performance gift has suddenly shown up on our doorstep.

The last thing Smalltalk needs is another incompatible implementation. The splintering of Smalltalk implementations has dispersed the huge amount of talent and effort needed to build, port, maintain, and extend a really good virtual-machine. Alone, this is a problem for each of us. Together, a really good, super-fast type-feedback VM is for the first time within reach.

I would like to invite the smart people out there who know and care most about the various Smalltalk virtual machines, to join Dan and I in a fairly focused discussion about this starting tomorrow (Thursday, PST) [editor’s note: this message was sent on Wednesday, 4th October] on the Strongtalk discussion group, at I will be out of the country for 6 weeks starting Wed the 11th, so I would like to propose that we try to go back and forth about this a few times by the end of Friday, so we can think about this over the weekend, and maybe come up with a proposed general course of action by the middle of next week, so we all have something to think about until my return.

Let’s not lose this opportunity.


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