Strongtalk virtual-machine is now fully Open Source!

"David Griswold" <>
16 Sep 2006 15:57:34 -0400

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Strongtalk virtual-machine is now fully Open Source! (David Griswold) (2006-09-16)
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From: "David Griswold" <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 16 Sep 2006 15:57:34 -0400
Organization: Compilers Central
Keywords: smalltalk, available
Posted-Date: 16 Sep 2006 15:57:34 EDT

For those of you who have heard of Strongtalk (or if you haven't, but
you care about dynamic optimization, performance in Smalltalk, or type
systems), there is great news today:

Sun Microsystems has at long last released the Strongtalk
virtual-machine as Open Source! This means the entire Strongtalk
project is now fully Open Source, under a basically unrestricted
Berkeley-style license, at

As many of you may remember, Strongtalk was (and still is) the fastest
implementation of Smalltalk ever. It also included the only fully
developed type-system for Smalltalk (use of which is optional, and
doesn't affect performance). The VM is based on Urs Hölzle's highly
advanced type-feedback compiler technology, from the Self project at
Sun Labs. It was developed in the mid-'90s by a startup, Animorphic
Systems, a startup company, but was shelved when Sun bought
Animorphic. At Sun the Animorphic team based the design of the
current (HotSpot) Java VM on the Strongtalk VM. But Strongtalk sat on
a shelf, not quite finished.

In 2002, Sun released Strongtalk with a non-commercial binary of the
unfinished VM, with open source just for the associated
Smalltalk/Strongtalk libraries. But without the VM source code to
allow finishing and maintaining the VM, Strongtalk couldn't go
anywhere, other than as a historical proof that you really can make
Smalltalk run very fast, and that you can put a static type-system in
Smalltalk without ruining the things that make Smalltalk great.

Now, with the release of the VM source code, there's nothing stopping
anyone from doing anything with the Strongtalk system, and using it
for basically any purpose. This would also open the possibility that
other dynamic language implementations could borrow from the

To keep our feet on the ground, this is a very sophisticated, complex
system that is not fully finished, so there is a huge amount of work
required, by people with deep knowledge of VMs, to finish it or adapt
the technology to other VM designs. But before it was impossible.
Now, what happens is entirely up to the community!

Many thanks to Gilad Bracha at Sun for persevering and making this
happen, to Sun for releasing it, and to Robert Griesemer for helping
figure out how to get the VM building again after 10 years on a shelf.

-The Strongtalk Team

P.S. The Strongtalk system is a complex, uncompleted system with *no
support*, so please don't expect to be able to use it for real
applications or get end-user questions answered at this point.
Currently, the release is only good for demoing. At the moment, we
mostly need virtual-machine experts who are interested in helping get
the system finished and usable.

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