Sometimes, I feel like I'm the only person on the Net who hasn't come out with my own version of the perfect Web browser. Hey, even Compuserve is threatening to come out with one! It seems like everyone's convinced: if you're looking for the Holy Grail on the Net, http is the protocol to use.
In this roundup, I'll look at Netscape, Mosaic, WinWeb, Cello, Tapestry, and SlipKnot. Each of these has a feature or two that the others lack, and they all fall a bit short of being the big breakthrough for one reason or another. And, if you're using a shell account and can't run Winsock-compliant applications, SlipKnot may be the answer.
Let's face it, the masses hooking up to the Net aren't the tech heads of yesteryear. They're looking for three things: cheap access, easy-to-use software, and the storylines to last week's soaps. These are not the people who will spend three hours trying to figure out how to set up MS-Window's win32 extensions so they can play a low-resolution MPEG file.
It's going to take some work to bring the Web to the multitude. Wouldn't it be ironic if Compuserve came out with a really great Web browser and we all dumped our ISPs and signed up with them? Yeah, right.
Here, I'll only discuss browsers for MS-Windows. Why? Because I don't have a Mac, and I still don't even know what exactly X-Windows is. I didn't test telnet and other external applications because, well, I have a life to live. And opening that can of worms would have kept me busy for a week. Besides, that's what God created newsgroups for.
By using the (File | New Window) menu option, you can create a new "instance," or copy, of Netscape. You can have up to four copies running at once. So, if the first site you opened is taking a while to respond, you can start on something else while waiting. This doesn't give you any greater bandwidth, however, so if both documents start coming at once, they'll be doing it at about half-speed.
Netscape uses "persistent disk caching", which means that users no longer have to wait for extremely long times to download graphics from Web sites. The program stores graphics on your hard drive after loading them once, and when you return to the site in another session, the graphics are loaded from your local drive. This is very similar to the "AOL" graphic method.
Netscape now includes RSA encryption technology, which will work with all RSA-capable Web servers, including NetSite, available now. Also, Netscape seems to be the only browser able to display the word "blinking". If anyone has found other Netscape tricks, let me know!
Netscape is available for public use at ftp.mcom.com
in versions for the Mac, Unix and MS-Windows. It may also be
downloaded from the following link:
Netscape can display downloaded images without an external viewer and comes with an improved newsreader. (Although it required me a few trips to the alt.winsock newsgroup to actually get the newsreader working properly.) Netscape also offers easy access to a variety of search engines and help files. And it doesn't require win32. But is getting rid of win32 a good idea?
If you installed the win32 extensions to MS-Windows so you could run the 32-bit version of Mosaic, you might be wondering if you should uninstall them now that you'll be using Netscape. Keep in mind you may have other 32-bit applications that require these extensions. For instance, the mpeg viewer I have requires them. Not to mention the neat solitaire game that comes with win32 itself!
Even if you don't need the 32-bit extensions right now, there are two good reasons to leave them installed. First, you'll probably come across an application that requires them the day after you uninstall them. And second, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There doesn't seem to be any big performance cost for running the extensions and there's always a chance something else will get mucked up when you uninstall them.
So, what if you're going to foolishly ignore my advice and insist on un-installing win32? I posted this question on alt.winsock and got a variety of responses. To get the official Microsoft document on the subject, ftp to ftp.microsoft.com and get /developer/win32dk/kb/Q120/4/86.txt, and read it carefully.
Unlike the Mosaic/Netscape family, Cello can't display text in color, and uses dashed boxes to display links. I don't mean to sound negative, but I don't think it was ever the developer's goal to make Cello marketable. Cello might not have all the features of Netscape, or the speed in moving about in a document, but I still like it. Cello is available at ftp.law.cornell.edu in the /pub/LII/Cello directory.
Like Netscape, Tapestry allows you to open more than one document at a time. But where Tapestry really looks good is its handling of bookmarks. Tapestry's "organizer," as its bookmark list is called, is not only easy to use, it comes with some great preloaded bookmarks. Hundreds of sites are listed in twenty-odd categories, including the Best of Web '94 winners. I found some great sites I hadn't heard of before, and I spend a lot of time looking around. Contact them at email@example.com.
When you start WinWeb, it takes you immediately to a place called EINet, which has these neat graphics of the Milky Way and other space scenes. Whenever I've gone there, I feel like Dark Side of the Moon should be playing in the background. EINet seems to be some kind of commercial enterprise that involves Sprint, among other companies.
WinWeb has a very good index of resources and a search engine. Searching the word "pizza" brought up references to a PizzaHut Web site, a dozen gopher documents whose entries all read identically (is it me, or do gopher searches always yield results like that?), and one really cool resource: an obituary database.
But these are all reachable without WinWeb. WinWeb seems to work quickly, although the scrolling is jerky. Interestingly, whenever I try to load a local document off my hard disk, it can't find the graphics. Actually, what it does is perform a seek on my floppy drive for the graphics, which can make for some interesting sound effects.
I found WinWeb at ftp.cica.indiana.edu in the winsock directory, but since you've got about one chance in a hundred of actually getting into this site, you might want to try one of the mirror sites, like pdq.coe.montana.edu in the /pub/mirrors/cica/winsock directory.
SlipKnot is certainly not as fast as a real SLIP/PPP connection: on average, screens took about three times longer to download and assemble than with Netscape running over a SLIP connection. But considering the steps that have to be performed, that's not bad at all. The terminal program is not a replacement for your communications package, but then, it wasn't meant to be. SlipKnot 1.0 is available via ftp, try either ftp.oak.oakland.edu (/SimTel/win3/internet/slnot100.zip) or ftp.netcom.com (/pub/pbrooks/slipknot/slnot100.zip).
SlipKnot is a very welcome addition to the Web tool box. It will make available the Web's graphical displays to a whole new group of Internet users.
During the week, Leo is managing editor for Ziff-Davis's television shows. The publishing giant, owners of PC Magazine, MacUser, PC Week, MacWeek, and PC/Computing, among others, made its first foray into television last Fall with "The Personal Computing Show" which Leo co-hosted with Gina Smith, former editor-in-chief of "Electronic Entertainment" magazine. The show was seen on CNBC, America's Talking, The Sci-Fi Channel, and the Jones Computer Network.
In the Spring, Ziff-Davis plans to begin its second season of TV with two new shows, both of which will be hosted by Leo. Mr. Laporte is an 18-year radio veteran, with programs on KLOK, KNBR, and most recently, KSFO. For most of that time, Leo did general talk radio, but in 1991 he took a turn toward high-tech.
"Computers had always been a hobby with me," says Leo. "I started playing with them in the late '70s. My first personal computer was a NorthStar Advantage with 64K RAM and a five megabyte hard disk drive! I'd done some consulting, some free-lance writing, written some pretty popular shareware, and even run a BBS, but I'd never found a way to talk about computers on the radio. There just wasn't enough interest. Station management thought the topic was too obscure - too nerdy."
Mr. Laporte finally found a way to combine his hobby and his profession with the national syndication of "Dvorak on Computers" in 1991. John Dvorak left the show in August, 1993 when he realized there was no money to be made at it. It took Leo a little longer to conclude the same thing. He left in July, 1994.
Neither John nor Leo could stay away from radio... Dvorak now hosts "Software, Hardtalk" which is syndicated to nearly 100 non-commercial radio stations, including KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco. Leo continues in commercial radio with "Laporte on Computers," every Saturday from 10am to 1pm on KSFO (560 AM) in San Francisco.
"Laporte on Computers" is Leo's attempt to create a computer-oriented talk show that appeals to computer experts without leaving novices behind. He says that humor is the key. "It's not enough to be informative. Broadcasting is show business. If you don't entertain, you won't keep an audience. And if you don't deliver an audience, no radio station will allow you to continue to use their airwaves."
Leo is also writing a book, based on his experiences on camera and behind the mike. Tentatively titled "How Do I Get the Dog Hair Out of the Disk Drive, Answers to the 101 Most Asked Computer Questions," to be published by Ziff-Davis Press in the Spring.
As for future syndication plans, Leo says, "KSFO is owned by ABC / Capital Cities. When I first talked with them about doing a show locally, I also broached the idea of syndicating on the ABC radio network. Ken Beck, the Operations Manager at the time, told me that the network would be interested if I could demonstrate that there was a good mass audience for computer talk. As usual, it all depends on the ratings."
"For right now, I'm very happy doing the show locally. There's no better place in the country to do computer talk than the Bay Area, and by doing a local show, I can better serve the audience. On the national show I could never talk about local retailers or services, because they weren't applicable to the entire audience."
Leo says that response to his latest efforts has been excellent. The telephones light up every Saturday at 10am and stay jammed. He gets a flood of mail/email each week. KSFO has been very happy with "Laporte on Computers," too. They charge top ad rates, and sell out all three hours. Clearly, there is a demand for Leo's unique style. However, the all-important Fall rating book arrives mid-January, and that will indicate whether computer talk can make it on Bay Area radio.
Update, yes, the Bay Area is a good place for computer talk. We have 2 local shows, Leo Laporte (www.leoville.com) on KGO810 Saturdays 7-10 PM, Bob O'donnell (www.everythingcomputers.com) at KSFO560 (www.ksfo560.com) Saturdays 10 AM to 1 PM.
Page 11 had an ad for California Internet (www.california.com).
This is an appeal for donations to the Phil Zimmermann Legal Defense Fund (PZDF). Phil is the author of the most widely used public key encryption program in the world, PGP or Pretty Good Privacy. He is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for violation of export laws. Supporting Phil preserves your own right to the privacy of your own communications.
My relation to Phil Zimmerman is that of a long-time user and advocate of PGP and as a personal friend. For over a year, I moderated the (no longer published) digest, Info-PGP, on the old lucpul.it.luc.edu site at Loyola University in Chicago. I am in no way involved with the administration of the PZDF. I volunteer my time on its behalf.
In November, 1976, Martin Hellman and Whitfield Diffie announced their discovery of public-key cryptography by beginning their paper with the sentence: "We stand today on the brink of a revolution in cryptography." We stand today on the brink of an important battle in the revolution they unleashed. Philip Zimmermann, who encoded and released the most popular and successful program to flow from that discovery, Pretty Good Privacy ("PGP"), may be about to go to court.
It has been over fourteen months since Phil was first informed that he was the subject of a grand jury investigation (mounted by the San Jose, CA, office of US Customs) into the international distribution of the original version of the program over the Internet.
On January 12th, Phil's legal team will meet (in San Jose) for the first time with William Keane, Assistant US Attorney for the Northern District of California, who is in charge of the grand jury investigation. An indictment, if one is pursued by the government after this meeting, could be handed down very shortly thereafter.
If indicted, Phil would likely be charged with violating statute 22 USC 2778 of the US Code, "Control of arms exports and imports." This is the federal statute behind the regulation known as ITAR, "International Traffic in Arms Regulations," 22 CFR 120.1 et seq. of the Code of Federal Regulations. Specifically, the indictment would allege that Zimmerman violated 22 - USC 2778 by exporting an item listed as a "munition" in 22 CFR 120.1 et seq. without having a license to do so. That item is cryptographic software - PGP.
At stake, of course, is far more than establishing whether Phil violated federal law or not. The case presents significant issues and will establish legal precedent. This fact known to everyone involved.
Phil Dubois is Phil Zimmerman's lawyer and lead counsel in the Customs case. He administers the PZDF. According to Dubois, the US government hopes to establish the proposition that anyone having anything at all to do with an illegal export - even someone like Zimmerman, whose only involvement was writing the program and making it available to US citizens (and who has no idea who actually exported it) has committed a felony offense. The government also hopes to establish the proposition that posting a"munition" on a BBS or on the Internet is exportation.
If the government wins its case, the judgment will have a profound and chilling effect on the US software industry, on the free flow of information on the emerging global networks, and in particular, upon the grassroots movement to put effective cryptography in the hands of ordinary citizens. The US government will, in effect, resurrect Checkpoint Charlie - on the Information Superhighway.
Many of us know about this case, whether by having the program and reading the doc files or by seeing reports in the Wall Street Journal, Time, Scientific American, the New York Times, US News and World Report, and hundreds of other news outlets; on Usenet groups like talk. crypto.politics or alt.security.pgp; or by listening to Zimmerman give talks such as the one he gave at CFP '94 in Chicago.
PGP has made great strides since v1.0. It is now a sophisticated encryption and key - management package, and has become the de facto standard in both micro and mainframe environments. Zimmerman and the PGP development team successfully negotiated a commercial license from Viacrypt. Through the efforts of MIT, a noncommercial license for PGP with RSA Data Security (the holders of the patent on the RSA algorithm on which PGP is based) thus freeing the program from the shadow of allegations of patent infringement.
We know that programs such as PGP represent one of the best bulwarks in the Information Age against the intrusions of public and private information gatherers. We know that PGP is a vital tool to insure that the "Information Superhighway" will open the world to us, without opening us to the world.
What we may not all know is the price Zimmerman has had to pay for his courage and willingness to challenge the crypto status quo. For years now, Zimmerman has been the point man in the ongoing campaign for freely available effective cryptography for the everyday computer user. The costs, personal and professional, to him have been great. He wrote the original code for PGP 1.0 by sacrificing months of valuable time from his consulting career and exhausting his savings.
Zimmerman continues to devote large amounts of his time to testifying before Congress, doing public speaking engagements around the world, and agitating for "cryptography for the masses," largely at his own expense. He is now working, still for free, on the next step in PGP technology, PGP Phone, which will turn every PC with a sound card and a modem into a secure telephone. Just last month, he was searched and interrogated in the absence of counsel by US Customs officials upon his return from a speaking tour in Europe.
Zimmerman's legal team consists of his lead counsel, Philip Dubois of Boulder, CO; Kenneth Bass of Venable, Baetjer; Howard & Civiletti, in Washington, DC, first counsel for intelligence policy for the Justice Department under President Carter; Eben Moglen, professor of law at Columbia and Harvard Universities; Curt Karnow, a former assistant US attorney and intellectual property law specialist at Landels; Ripley & Diamond in San Francisco; and Thomas Nolan, noted criminal defense attorney in Menlo Park.
While this is a stellar legal team, what makes it even more extraordinary is that several members have given their time for free to this important case. Still, while their time has been donated so far, other expenses - travel, lodging, telephone, and other costs - have fallen to Zimmerman. If the indictment is handed down, time and costs will soar, and the members of the team currently working pro bono may no longer be able to. Justice does not come cheap in this country, but Zimmerman deserves the best justice money can buy him.
This is where you and I come in. Phil Dubois estimates that the costs of the case, aside the lawyers' fees, will run from $100,000 - $150,000. If the legal team must charge for their services, the total cost of the litigation may range as high as $300,000. The legal defense fund is already several thousand dollars in the red and the airline tickets to San Jose haven't even been purchased yet.
In September of 1993, I wrote a letter urging people to support Zimmerman's case. This was shortly after the first subpoenas were issued by Customs. Today, the need is greater than ever, and I'm repeating the call.
Zimmerman has assumed the burden and risk of being the first to develop truly effective tools with which we all might secure our communications against prying eyes. This is a political environment increasingly hostile to such an idea - an environment in which Clipper chips and digital telephony bills are the government's answer to our concerns. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to step forward and help shoulder that burden with him.
I call on all of us, both here in the US and abroad, to help defend Zimmerman and perhaps establish a groundbreaking legal precedent. PGP now has an installed base of hundreds of thousands of users. PGP works. It must - no other "crypto" package, of the hundreds available on the Internet and BBSs worldwide, has ever been subjected to the governmental attention PGP has.
How much is PGP worth to you? How much is the complete security of your thoughts, financial transactions, writings, ideas, communications, your life's work, worth to you? The price of a retail application package? More? Send it. Whatever you can spare - send it.
A legal trust fund, the Philip Zimmermann Defense Fund (PZDF), has been established with Attorney Phil Dubois. (Voice: NNN-NNN-NNNN) Donations will be accepted in any reliable form, check, money order, or wire transfer, and in any currency, or by credit card.
You may give anonymously or not, but please
give generously. If you admire PGP, what it was
intended to do and the ideals which animated
its creation, express your support with a
contribution to this fund. To send a check or money
order by mail, make it payable, not to Phil Zimmermann,
but to "Philip L. Dubois, Attorney Trust Account." Mail
contributions to the following address:
Philip Dubois, 2305 Broadway,
Boulder, CO USA 80304.
You can even make a donation to the PZDF via Internet mail on your VISA or MasterCard. Worried about snoopers intercepting your email? Don't worry - use PGP!
PGP-encrypted messages look something like this:
To donate with a credit card, simply compose a message in plain ASCII text with the following: the recipient ("Philip L. Dubois, Attorney Trust Account"); the bank name of your VISA or MasterCard; the name that appears on it; a phone number that you can be reached in case of problems; the card number; date of expiration; and, most important, the amount you wish to donate.
Then use PGP to encrypt and ASCII-armor the message using Phil Dubois's public key, see below. (If you want Phil Dubois to know who you are, be sure to include your name in the message.) Email the output file to Phil Dubois (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please be sure to use a "Subject:" line with something like "Phil Zimmermann Defense Fund" so he'll know to decrypt it right away.
To obtain a copy of my PGP public key, you have a number of options:
The keyserver machines accept the same message format and all automatically synchronize keyrings with each other. (Every 10 minutes or so each server trades key information with all other keyservers.)
Both Phil Dubois's and Phil Zimmermann's pubkey can be obtained from these keyservers. Phil Zimmermann's key is also inside the 'keys. asc' file within the PGP distribution packages. You can verify my public key by calling me at NNN-NNN-NNNN and letting me read you my key fingerprint ("pgp-kvc hmiller" after you have put my key on your pubring.pgp keyring.)
This article is an edited version of a letter posted in a number of Usenet groups. I will also be turning it into a FAQ-formatted document, which will be posted monthly in the relevant groups, and which will be available by anonymous ftp from ftp.math.luc.edu (/pub/hmiller/PGP/pzdf.FAQ).
If you come upon, or up with, any other ways in which we can help raise funds for Zimmerman, drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know, so that I can put it in the FAQ.
Pages 12-13 had ads for MTR Electronics, The Coalition of Parental Support (www.copss.org), Mountain Web (Mr.Natural) Computer Services (www.mtnweb.com), and GTEK (www.gtek.com).
Pages 14 - 16 had ads for the Internet Crash Course (www.webdzine.com/index.shtml), Compass Rose Publishing, Launch Point, and WCO's Internet services.
We offer a comprehensive medical plan, profit sharing, and terrible working conditions (as defined by our staff, who think that anything short of valet lunch service is cruel and unusual punishment). Applicants should submit their resume to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. Applications should include the name and number of any BBS currently run, along with a preconfigured account name and password for our staff to come snooping to see what you can do.
Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro
Contributing Editor: Robert Holland
Hardware: Fred Townsend
Internet: Eric Theise
Memory: Kevin Lynn
Wireless: Jesus Monroy, Jr.
Proofreaders: Bryce Wolfson , David Hayr, and David Stafford
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Unix: Paul Theodoropoulos
Connectivity: Chris Ward
Distribution: Jami Chism, Bill Clark, Robert Escamilla, Robert Holland, Mark Murphy, Pete Nelson, Laurie Newell, Ed Ng, Steve Pomerantz, City Racks, Lee Root, Rochelle Skwarla, Tiger Team, and WHT.
Printed at: Fricke-Parks Press (510) 793-6543
You've received a new PC for Christmas. It came with DOS, Windows, a sound card, modem, and a beautiful monitor. Everyone is talking "like yano surfs up on the Web Dude!" and you want to be there. What do you need?
You need a PPP or SLIP account, and a Winsock DLL (Dynamic Link Library) file installed on your system. Don't bother with one of those "shell accounts" such as NetCruiser. A shell account can't take full advantage of the multimedia aspects of your system.
The packages coved here all adhere to the Windows socket API standard. All create a TCP/IP compliant stack with their own Winsock DLL.
With a Winsock installed, and a SLIP or PPP modem connection (Serial Line Internet Protocol or Point-to-Point Protocol), you can access the Internet similar to how you would access a program on a hard drive. In other words, you become the Internet and it becomes part of you.
Where to find a Winsock program? For several hundred dollars, you can buy commercial packages from Distinct, FireFox, Frontier Technologies, Intercon, NetManage, WRQ, and others. But what about the home user, or if you want to try before you buy? Here are three popular choices:
1) Trumpet is shareware, a Winsock that can be downloaded from BBSs or the Internet.
2) NetManage's Chameleon Sampler can be downloaded from their BBS in Cupertino (408) 257-3794. It is also bundled in books (e.g., Navigating the Internet.)
3) WRQ Reflections will send a 30-day evaluation package if you call them. (800) 872-2829
WRQ works like Chameleon. Put disk #1 in and run setup. After WRQ is installed, it tells you to reboot your computer. This is where I ran into problems. I use Windows For Workgroups v3.11. The system crashed when the floppy's AUTOEXEC.BAT ran.
It took two hours with technical service at WRQ to get it installed correctly. The technical service guy admitted that WRQ has a lot of work to do on their installation program, I took this to mean bugs. The eventual installation of WRQ did not look anything like what the manual described.
Trumpet's documentation file is even worse. WRQ's manual would be of great help if anything worked like the manual said it did. Unlike the others, WRQ requires a terminal program. You can use theirs, (available separately) or you can get a shareware equivalent such as Unibol.
I would have been lost if it weren't for Netmanage's customer support. I called, and like most customer support, they were busy. Unlike most customer support, they called back immediately. One of their staff walked me through the setup program and in another minute I was on the Internet! Kudos to Netmanage's support, the best I have ever experienced in this business. After learning a great deal from Netmanage, I had a large enough vocabulary to understand how to setup Trumpet!
Netmanage's Chameleon sampler TCP/IP stack for Windows comes with some utilities. One can Telnet into other Internet servers, FTP, (request files from other machines) and send and receive mail. Also included are some diagnostic tools such as a ping program to test your connection.
With the exception of the Chameleon Telnet software, I found better utilities available as shareware - but Chameleon's programs allow you to get these other programs. The sampler version does not come with a program to surf the World Wide Web, but that's ok, you can use Netscape. Trumpet comes with almost nothing. However, if you know a good BBS or Internet ftp site with a collection of shareware for the Internet, you can be surfing with Trumpet after proper configuration.
If you have a sense for adventure, and a little patience, Trumpet works quite well, supports 28.8, and with the addition of a few other shareware programs, will allow you to surf in style. And, you can't beat Trumpet's price of $20.00. I strongly suggest you read one of the many good books on using the Internet before you try to install Trumpet.
Next Month: Setting up Trumpet, and Getting a BBS on the Internet with PowerBBS.
Netmanage's Chameleon package is preloaded with setups for some of the bigger ISPs, but if your server is not listed, here is how to use the custom configuration program:
To setup Chameleon, get the following information from your ISP when you get your account. Then, plug this information into Chameleon's Setup and Services menu. This information is case sensitive. Be sure all text is in lower case.
Select type of interface: Either PPP, SLIP, or CSLIP (compressed SLIP)
Subnet Mask: This needs to be 255.255.255.0. (If you use a PPP interface, this will be grayed out.)
Host Name: This is your name, the first part of your mailing address before the @. For example, my mailing address is email@example.com. Therefore, my host name would be ctoth.
Domain Name: This is the part of your mailing address that follows the @, in my case, mtnweb.com.
Port: This is your comm port that your modem will use to call out on.
Modem: If your modem isn't listed, add your own init string.
Dial: This is the phone number that your ISP will give you to call and connect with the Internet Login:
A) User name: yourname
B) Password: yourpassword
C) Startup Command: (usually, leave this blank.) Interface name: This should already be set to PPP0, SLIP, or CSLIP.
Primary address: 188.8.131.52
Secondary address: 184.108.40.206
That's it. To connect to the Internet, Save your config file and restart the Custom program. Click the log button to see the script in action, and then click on connect and verify that it connects. If it connects to the Internet, the connect icon will go away and be replaced by disconnect. That's it, your on. Run Ping and tell it to connect to the name of your domain, it should come back and say it sent a test packet of info and it returned correctly. Run Netscape, and you should be on the Web.
One last piece of advice, don't use the mail program that comes with Chameleon. It works, but is not easy to set up. Get a copy of Eudora - it's very easy to set up. Make sure you read the entire README file.
Page 18 had ads for the Pacific Exchange and PowerBBS Computing (www.powwwerworkgroup.com).
Smalltalk is both a strict implementation of an Object-Oriented Programming Language (OOPL) and a complete development environment.
For the average programmer, learning Smalltalk requires a paradigm (thinking-mode) shift; because it is a pure OOPL, it must be approached as something new. To learn it, you have to shift from the old procedural (structured) way of doing things. Today, the current migration from structured programming to OOP can be compared to the '70s, when programmers moved from "spaghetti" code to structured programming.
The object-oriented programming world is formed by organized, intelligent interaction between code modules. Smalltalk allows a programmer to model the real world, dramatically shorten development time, and build robust software applications which are easy to modify and extend.
In a pure OOPL environment, everything is an object. Hybrid languages use OOPL structures and older (procedural) data types and procedures. Hybrid code can be harder to maintain and is considered a crutch, allowing you to use existing programming skills and code.
Objects communicate with each other by sending and receiving messages. Objects are defined by both their behavior and state. The behavior of an object is defined by the messages it can receive and send. All objects of the same type (class) share the same behavior.
In Smalltalk, everything is either a class, constant, message, variable, or punctuation - and all these form objects. When learning Smalltalk, syntax isn't a problem. The challenge is to absorb the new abstractions, the essential concepts that define object-oriented programming: encapsulation, polymorphism, and inheritance.
Encapsulation protects an object from extraneous messages or pointer/variable changes. Polymorphism refers to a message's ability to convey different things, depending on the objects passed to it. An example is how the plus sign can be used:
3 + 4 = 7The message 'plus' (addition) is sent to instances of three different classes: Integer, Float, and Fraction. The method (object) activated contains the appropriate code to handle the three different types of numerical data.
3.2 + 3.14 = 6.34
(1/2) + (32/64) = 1
Inheritance means all classes exist in a subclass hierarchy. All methods and variables of a superclass (the one above) are available to the subclasses below. The superclass provides the general characteristics, and the subclass implements specific characteristics. To build an application, you select from classes and methods provided, and then add your own to meet your needs.
OOPLs like Smalltalk have automatic memory management. During execution, code objects use up memory. Unless memory is reclaimed, it will eventually be exhausted. An object is considered unused if it is no longer referenced. Other languages like C++ require a great deal of programming effort to make sure that memory used by objects is reclaimed. In OOPLs, the programmer is free to worry about more substantial issues.
There are other implementations of Smalltalk, but Digitalk's Smalltalk/V is considered one of the best around. They have versions for DOS, Windows 16/32, and OS/2. Although the box states 4 megs minimum, Smalltalk/V for 16-bit Windows should be installed on a system with 8 megs of RAM.
Smalltalk/V includes good documentation, but the only way to learn Smalltalk is to dive in. Within a month or so, you will be comfortable constructing object-oriented applications. Lots of buyouts happened, and ObjectShare (www.objectshare.com) is now the company that holds the fruits of Digitalk's efforts.