So Apple reinvented Squeak and Sophie…or Not?


Apple once again proves that it doesn’t really need new ideas, technologies or such to come up with a commercially successful product. Isn’t the whole point of their latest Announcement of iBooks 2 and iBooks author and iTunes U exactly what Alan Kay has been talking about for, well, decades?

iBooks will have a lot more sex appeal than squeak has ever had, and the integration into the Apple ecosystem will no doubt be great. The fact alone that kids will now be able to play with their e-Textbooks on an iPad will help grow the iOS market.

But wait! Squeak, eToys and Scratch are so much more than just a multimedia vehicle to transport knowledge. They are enablers for creativity and learning environments. Apple’s new tools make presentation easier and maybe make learning a bit more fun. But it’s more or less a one-way channel that’s embedded in a widely known and desired ecosystem, but the new iBooks aren’t really interactive or programmable. You still cannot use an iBook and experiment with it or extend it. In fact, taking Kay’s ideas and Squeak’s potential and comparing them to what Apple presented today is like comparing day and night.

3 thoughts on “So Apple reinvented Squeak and Sophie…or Not?

  1. If I understood correctly, you can design your own widgets with Javascript & HTML to bring interactivity to your books. That would maybe be a nice fit for Amber Smalltalk. I don’t know what the limitations are but it’s maybe worth to have a look.

    1. Francois,

      that’s what came to my mind as well. Why not use Amber for that stuff. But I guess it would mean quite some work to port eToys to Amber in order to accomplish that.

      This whole thing reminds a bit of the anecdote that Steve Jobs was so blinded by the GUI side of Smalltalk when he visited XEROX Parc that he never really asked about what the real power of Smalltalk is. So he brought the mouse and Windows to his Mac, but not objects (back then).

      This is the very same story. The new text books will be multimedia and nicely embedded in their ecosystem, but they don’t take the next step and make teaching and learning an interactive experimental and rewarding experience. That is where environments like eToys unleash a lot more power and creativity.

    2. Yes. Bert Freudenberg showed me a proof-of-concept iBook that ran a JS evaluator in the book, so you could type “3 + 4” in one field of the page and “7” would appear in another.

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