Let’s Smalltalk

James Foster wins award at ESUG conference for programming innovation

James Foster, Walla Walla University assistant professor of computer science, won first place out of 26 submissions for his project, “PharoGs,” at the 27th European Smalltalk Users Group conference in Cologne, Germany, Aug. 26-30.

Foster’s project created a path for programs written in one programming environment, Pharo, to run in another environment, GemStone. With his changes, the environments became similar enough that many programs could move across with little change. His findings were seen as a significant technological innovation by the conference attendees.

Smalltalk is a general-use, object-oriented language begun in the 1970s and used by multiple companies who build on it to create a variety of applications. While most implementations of Smalltalk follow an ANSI standard, each dialect has differences that make it difficult to move an application from one dialect to another. Two of these dialects are GemStone and Pharo. GemStone is a closed-source, commercial implementation of Smalltalk, while Pharo is an active, free, open-source implementation of Smalltalk. GemStone has a particular set of database-related features and clientele with mission-critical operations while Pharo is primarily used in academic settings with some commercial users as well. Developers may begin programming with Pharo since it is free, then move to GemStone as they want more functions and options.

WWU students Caleb Herbel and Kaelan Willauer attended the conference with Foster. Both were included in the conference Student Volunteers track, which offers free room and board, and admission to the conference. During the “Show Us Your Projects” portion of the conference, Herbel presented a short talk about his project, which translates Python (a more recent programing language) into Smalltalk. 

ESUG is a nonprofit association begun in 1991 that gathers the users of the Smalltalk programming language from around the world. It meets annually at universities around Europe for five days each summer. It focuses on reaching and connecting members of academia and industry who work with Smalltalk.

Learn more about studying computer science and the degrees offered at wallawalla.edu/cs.

Posted Feb. 19, 2020

older man in glasses and white print shirt in front of a white background.
James Foster won first place at the ESUG conference for his project, “PharoGs.”
Student presenting a project behind a wood podium with a screen behind.
Caleb Herbel presents his project at the conference during “Show Us Your Projects.”
portions of computer code on a computer screen.
Foster’s project created a path for programs written in one programming environment, Pharo, to run in another environment, GemStone.