Learning Squeak is easier now

If you’re a software developer and you’ve wanted to learn Squeak, it’s been a struggle for a while now.

Edit 4-10-2017: Re. the paragraph below on Guzdial’s books, I recommend “Squeak: Object-Oriented Design with Multimedia Applications” with some caution now, because the Mac version of Squeak 2.8 will no longer work on a Mac. In fact, it hasn’t worked on a Mac since OS X Lion (Version 10.7), since Apple got rid of Rosetta. The Windows version of 2.8 may still work on a modern version of Windows. If you’re a Mac user, you can run Windows inside of a virtual machine, like VirtualBox, or a commercial VM. The Windows version of 2.8 might also work with Wine (a multi-platform, open source package that allows you to run some Windows programs in OS X or Linux), but I haven’t tried it.

It used to be possible to get Squeak 2.8 online, but I’m not sure if that’s possible anymore. Many of the examples in the book will probably still work on a modern Squeak version, since they just deal with basic Smalltalk features, but some examples will likely no longer work.

In 2001 and 2002 Mark Guzdial wrote two books on Squeak: Squeak: Object-Oriented Design with Multimedia Applications, and Squeak: Open Personal Computing and Multimedia (co-authored with Kim Rose). These are two books I found that have a system/programmer perspective on it. They’re both out of print, but last I checked they’re still available from Amazon.com. A lot of the knowledge in these two books is still relevant to Squeak, but they are in a sense out of date, because they were written for earlier versions, and some of the features Guzdial talks about are either broken now or non-existent in the current version, and there are tools that are in common use now in Squeak that didn’t exist at the time he wrote them. By the way, if you get these books I strongly recommend that you get Squeak version 2.8, because it’s the version the books talk about. If you can, you might want to get the CD with the book (some of the used editions don’t have it). It has version 2.8 on it.

Edit 10-19-2011: Just for clarification, I’ll add that “Squeak: Object-Oriented Design with Multimedia Applications” is a book you can get if you’re trying to learn how to use Squeak, and learn the Smalltalk language. It guides you through the features of the system, and contains exercises to help you learn what you can do in it. “Squeak: Open Personal Computing and Multimedia” is more of a philosophical book, talking about why Squeak was created, and what it represents in the world.

Just today (Sept. 14, 2007) I heard about a new book that’s been published called “Squeak By Example”, written by Andrew Black, Stephane Ducasse, Oscar Nierstrasz, Damien Pollet, Damien Cassou, and Marcus Denker. It’s available as a free PDF. The book is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. It is also open source.

This is a developer-focused book. If you’re looking for a book that looks at Squeak from a child’s/educator’s perspective, I’d recommend any of the other books on Squeak, such as Squeak: Programming With Robots, by Stephane Ducasse.

I’ve done a quick look-through of “Squeak By Example,” and my own assessment is it teaches you about the system features, both from a UI and programmatic perspective. While there is plenty of Smalltalk code in it, it’s not intended as a book for learning the Smalltalk language. For that they suggest you take a look at the collection of free books on Smalltalk that are available online. As far as I know these books are out of print, but they’re still useful. As an introduction I’d suggest “I Can Read C++ and Java But I Can’t Read Smalltalk” (PDF), by Wilf LaLonde.

As I’ve said before, there are tools you can run inside of Squeak. “Squeak by Example” discusses many of the ones developers will need to know about. Each tool also has an object model that is accessible from inside your own code, which is also discussed.

It talks about the system, or kernel objects, such as collections, streams, and the meta-object model. It talks about message passing, which is the mechanism by which you and objects communicate with other objects.

It teaches the basics of how to use Squeak in a nice level of detail. One of the things I haven’t liked about most of the Squeak tutorials out there is they ignore the basic, beginner-level knowledge someone new to it needs to know, like how to bring up menus, what menus are available, and what you can do with them, not to mention how to install and run it (though this is pretty easy). This book allows you to ease into it, showing you how to install Squeak, and how to use the mouse with it.

I’ve been itching to recommend this tutorial, done by Stephan Wessels, but I haven’t because it skips the beginner basics. Now I can, since you can learn these basics elsewhere. He takes you step by step through a complete development example, creating a “laser” game in Morphic, a graphical objects/UI framework in Squeak.

Just as a side note, when I first saw Stephan’s tutorial it reminded me of Laser Chess, by Mike Duppong, a game that was originally published in Compute!’s Atari ST Disk & Magazine 20 years ago (the multi-platform Compute! Magazine published ports of it for Commodore, Atari 8-bit, and Apple II computers).

Anyway, enough reminiscing. Here are some other tutorials on the Squeak Wiki. Like I said, they typically don’t cover the beginner basics, but once you know them, you’ll probably find other useful information here.

For you web developers out there, once you learn the stuff I mentioned above, you can move on to the Seaside tutorials.

Go forth, and enjoy Squeak!

—Mark Miller, https://tekkie.wordpress.com


3 thoughts on “Learning Squeak is easier now

  1. Pingback: Squeak by Example 2.0 is out « Tekkie

  2. Pingback: Reminiscing, Part 3 « Tekkie

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