Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ANSI Smalltalk

In 1998 the first version of the ANSI standard for the Smalltalk programming language was released under the auspices of INCITS. It has the cosy name "ANSI INCITS 319-1998".

Since 1998 Smalltalk has moved on, with more implementations of Smalltalk (dialects) and most dialects trending towards ANSI standard, as well of lots of cool things like Seaside and Croquet. The ANSI process for Smalltalk has not moved on and the committee that put together the standard no longer even exists.

Today, even though much of the ANSI standard is implemented in most dialects, it is hard to write a Smalltalk program that will run unaltered in more than one dialect. This is something that the Sport (Smalltalk Portability) library helps to address, but the very existence of a kludge like Sport points to the need for greater inherent consistency among Smalltalk dialects.

I have been promoting the idea that getting the ASNI process restarted for Smalltalk would be a win for all Smalltalkers; vendors, tool-smiths and application developers alike. In my view the ANSI process should be on-going, producing a new version of the standard regularly (say every 18 months or 2 years) and looking to the community for priorities.

Recently I spoke with INCITS about what it would take to restart the process and it seems fairly straight forward. We need to put together a proposal for starting the project. If the proposal is accepted a committee is formed and the committee gets to work.

I will be posting more details to comp.lang.smalltalk since that is the primary all-dialect discussion forum for Smalltalk.

I think we can get the Smalltalk ANSI standardization process going again and I think we should, and there is no time like the present.

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