pmuellr is Patrick Mueller

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

hoping for the ide wars

Joe calls it "The professionalization of scripting languages"; I call it "the javascript wars". As it relates to SquirrelFish anyway. As for maglev, I say "thank you for setting a new bar for 'dynlang' runtimes; it was desperately needed".

That's the big take away; as we see competing implementations of JavaScript and Ruby, the upside for us consumers is great - all the implementors trying to out-do themselves, giving us better and better runtimes. We saw the same with the web browsers and Java VMs in the 90's.

But all of that is just getting the runtimes to run faster, use less memory, and in general just being better citizens on our computers. That doesn't change the way I work all that much, just lets me develop (and test) faster. What else can we take away from the Smalltalk experience?

Development environments.

There were plenty of warts in the Smalltalk IDE story - you had to use the IDE's text editor, your entire development environment was mixed in with your product code, etc. But of course there were lots of advantages to that also. Smalltalk was the last development environment where I actively took advantage of extending the environment with my own code. Before Smalltalk I was using programmable text editors and commmand lines; I was quite comfortable scripting both, even on mainframes. Since Smalltalk I've generally been using Eclipse for work stuff, but the effort in extending the environment has just been too much work for me to invest in, though I've tried a few times. I settle for writing ant scripts; that's how bad things have gotten - I'm programming in XML.

What's on the horizon? Eclipse has E4. Which seems like it's largely a cleanup/sanitization of Eclipse, vs a complete re-think. I suspect I will write as many extensions for E4 as I have for the previous versions of Eclipse. Perhaps I'll sit that out and wait for Steve Northover's E5. Frankly, I think it's time we started fresh; let's call it F1.

Gilad Bracha has a recent blog post on "Incremental Development Environments" including a link to a paper on Hopscotch. Frankly, the paper didn't do much for me, and the sole screenshot is of something which appears to be a browser-based IDE. Not terribly fascinating at this point, in terms of the specifics. I hope to hear more about Hopscotch after Vassilli Bykov's presentation "Interfaces Without Tools" at Smalltalk Solutions 2008.

It'll be terribly fascinating if people are actually getting interested in IDEs again. Let the IDE Wars begin!