Apple Rejects Squeak Smalltalk

March 10, 2011

Here is a news item from “Wired” that was published last year but which I have just become aware of.

About 40 years ago, tech legend Alan Kay invented the idea of a lightweight tablet computer that children could use to learn programming.

Apple’s iPad delivers on the tablet part of that vision — but the company has blocked a kid-friendly programming language based on Kay’s work from getting onto the iPad.

Apple removed an app called Scratch from its iPhone and iPad App Store last week. The Scratch app displayed stories, games and animations made by children using MIT’s Scratch platform, which was built on top of Kay’s programming language Squeak, according to MIT.

Steve Jobs took a tour of Xerox PARC in 1979, and some might even say that his visit is still unfolding with the release of the iPad tablet, which resembles Kay’s description of the Dynabook (illustrated at right).

Jobs this month personally mailed an iPad to Kay, who praised Apple’s tablet as “fantastically good” for drawing, painting and typing. But Kay declined to give his full evaluation of the iPad to until his question of whether Scratch or Etoys — another educational programming language Kay developed for kids — would be usable on the device.

With the removal of Scratch from the App Store, for now the answer to Kay’s question would appear to be “No.”

“If you follow the chain of where Scratch came from, yes it is a Dynabook app, sadly not an iPad app,” McIntosh wrote in Apple’s developer forums.

McIntosh said that Apple removed the app because it allegedly violated a rule in the iPhone developer agreement — clause 3.3.2, which states iPhone apps may not contain code interpreters other than Apple’s. The clause reads:

An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise. No interpreted code may be downloaded or used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Documented APIs and built-in interpreter(s).

Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber, who first reported the removal of Scratch, explained that Apple’s intention with the “no interpreters” rule is to block meta-platforms such as Adobe Flash.

AFAICT, Apples clause 3.3.2 is still in force.

iPad is pretty much what Alan Kay described as the “Dynabook” concept. And, now that it is reality (in large part due to the influence of Smalltalk), Squeak Smalltalk won’t be allowed to run on it.

QuickSilver runs in the JavaScript environment and doesn’t require the installation of a separate VM. So, QuickSilver should be ok for the iPad, iPhone, Android, or any other device that supports JavaScript.


One Response to “Apple Rejects Squeak Smalltalk”

  1. Erlis Vidal Says:

    It’s sad, but life is balance. iPad is not the only tablet in the market. Maybe now is the best consumer choice (arguable) but that doesn’t mean is the one.

    Things like this is probably what Androids needs in order to drag more developers. I’m following your posts about smalltalk in Android. I’m really looking forward into it. This is also another door for the future of smalltalk.


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