Making a little noise about Squeak
By Erica Schroeder
December 22, 1998 3:28 PM ET
A friend of mine has been peppering me periodically with e-mails about
something called Squeak. This weekend I decided to investigate, and what I
found was pretty interesting.
Squeak is an object-oriented, open-source-code programming language based on
and written in Smalltalk-80. It is platform-independent and, like Java,
requires a virtual machine for each platform on which it runs. Originally
developed on the Mac OS, not surprisingly it has been ported to many
platforms: Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows CE, the major Unix flavors
(Solaris, SunOS, Digital Unix, Linux, HP-UX, Irix, etc.), OS/2, DOS, NeXT,
BeOS and Acorn.
It also runs on the Mitsubishi M32R/D chip and something Compaq's (nee
Digital's) Western Research Lab and the Systems Research Center cooked up
called the Itsy (Worth a mention: The Itsy is a PDA research project that
runs on Linux. Information is available at
Development of Squeak started in 1995, and the brains behind it are Dan
Ingalls, Alan Kay, Ted Kaehler, John Maloney and Scott Wallace. According to
what is apparently the Squeak home page, the project was launched to develop
an educational platform that could be programmed by nontechies, even kids.
The developers also wanted to create a platform for PDAs or Internet access
devices where a compact, fast and highly portable OS is required. They
considered using Java but decided it was too immature. Smalltalk, on the
other hand, didn't have the audio and graphics capabilities they wanted.
The developers decided to build a version of Smalltalk that met their
requirements, and thus Squeak was born. Today the team that developed Squeak
is at Walt Disney Imagineering, and they continue to develop and advance
their work. True to the behavior of the open-source community, a great deal
of other work with and about Squeak is available all over the Internet.
The neat things about Squeak appear to be the way it handles objects,
real-time audio and music capabilities, and color manipulation. It runs
bit-identical images on all platforms and does animation and Web serving.
Because it's written in Smalltalk, everything about a Squeak
application--the code, the virtual machine, etc.--can be manipulated or
In addition, the platform is really small--under 2MB for Squeak, the virtual
machine and a Smalltalk-to-C translator (which speeds up Squeak). A Win CE
version can run in under 1MB.
Squeak can be used for commercial applications royalty-free, although the
license stipulates that any ports of Squeak or changes to the base class
library must be made freely available on the Internet.
So Squeak is an object-oriented development environment that can be run on
any platform using a VM and supports lots of multimedia capabilities. And
it's got an open source code that enables developers to tweak any part of a
Squeak app. Sounds to me like a better Java.