The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Learning about Smalltalk (Xerox, Alan Kay, PARC)

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Learning About Smalltalk

by Marian Goldeen

My name is Marian Goldeen. I'm an eighth grade student at Jordan Junior High
School in Palo Alto, California, and I would like to tell you about how I got
started working with computers at Xerox and the class I taught.

It all started in December, 1973 when I was in the seventh grade, There were
four people in my class who were interested in taking a course about the
computer language Smalltalk at Xerox.

When we first started we were shown how to start the machines up, and file in
our one file, which had already been written onto our disks. These files
contained some programs that would draw boxes like this.

These boxes could turn on their axes,


and shrink.

Later on we learned how to change the programs which had been created and drew
these boxes so that we could do different things with them, for instance, move
them to different places on the screen.

There was a little rectangular object to the side of the keyboard, called the
mouse. When you moved the mouse around a corresponding pointer on the screen
moved around too. We learned how to make the boxes follow the mouse pointer.

After we had learned just about everything there was to know about boxes we were
able to create our own programs (Gulp). I don't know what the two boys in the
class did, but Colleen and I created a painting program. It was fairly
complicated. To run it you first had to set up the menu.

You would point with the mouse to the box that contained the shape you wanted to
draw with, then press the top mouse button. Now the shape would be a paint brush
and you could draw pictures.

"Smalltalk" is an interactive language developed by Alan Kay at Xerox Palo Alto
Research Center. It is easy to learn and use, has powerful text display and
manipulation capabilities, extensive graphics and animation features, and very
high computational speed on several parallel levels. It runs an a small computer
specifically dedicated to running Smalltalk and has not, at this time, been
implemented on any general purpose computer. We'll have more on Smalltalk in
future issues.


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