Links - Pharo Smalltalk

March 19 2009: Pharo will be going beta with version 1.0 !!! I thought they said it would take three years ... glad it didn't :-).

An interesting development - master Smalltalk developers Stéphane Ducasse, Marcus Denker, Damien Cassou, Lukas Renggli, Alexandre Bergel and Adrian Lienhard have initiated a fork of Squeak called "Pharo". If you know the cast of characters in the Squeak world, this is a huge assortment of Smalltalk talent ... huge.

As of a few months ago, the tentative name was 'Sapphire', but that was probably too crowded with other software using the same name ( the Ruby CMS for instance ). Pharo is close to the word 'lighthouse' in French ( also remembering the Alexandrian Pharos from anicent history class ).

From the Pharo page on Google:

Pharo (aka Smalltalk burn the disk pack) is an open source Smalltalk. The goal of Pharo is to produce a clean and lean open-source Smalltalk. We want Pharo to be the obvious choice for professional development in an open-source Smalltalk. Pharo wants to take a fresh look at the Smalltalk philosophy and current implementations.

High priorities will be the goals of 1) clean MIT licensing and 2) running Seaside quickly and efficiently.

I think this is a wonderful development. Most people acknowledge that there is a huge role for Smalltalk as a multimedia teaching environment for schools, Squeak is packed with goodies and interesting experiments - it's a good thing. But there is also a huge role for an efficient, open-source Smalltalk to run commercial applications, particularly Seaside. It is also a good thing.

The forking of Pharo may also put on some pressure on the Squeal community to advance the schedule for getting off the old Apple license, which may be bogged down under conflicting perceptions and interest. Apple deserves a lot of credit for the time and money it has invested in Squeak, but big companies can move very slowly compared to the world of open source, collaborative development.

In fact, Pharo will continue to use the Squeak VM for some time, maybe a year or so. It's primarily a licensing issue and not a performance issue, so re-engineering the VM is probably not critical at this point.

On the other hand, I'd love to see the Linux version of the VM get some tuning for KDE, which tends to develop sticky mouse syndrome with large Squeak images. Under Puppy Linux with JWM it runs very quickly, better than any Windows configuration I've seen. Maybe tighter integration with Xorg or even Orbit/DCOP would help.

It's going to be interesting to see the flowering of Pharo in the coming months.