When comparing Smalltalk vs C++, the Slant community recommends Smalltalk for most people. In the question“What is the best programming language to learn first?” Smalltalk is ranked 18th while C++ is ranked 25th. The most important reason people chose Smalltalk is:
You can modify the system as it's running. You're "swimming with the fish", instead of probing a black box by remote control.
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Pro Environment of live objects
You can modify the system as it's running. You're "swimming with the fish", instead of probing a black box by remote control.
Pro Easy to learn and experiment
Pro Elegant syntax fits on a postcard
The syntax was designed to be easy enough for children to learn. Beginners can learn the language rules very quickly and then focus on programming without fighting the syntax at the same time. Things that have to be baked into the grammar in other languages are simple message sends with block arguments in Smalltalk. Expressions have only three precedence levels to worry about.
Pro Pure and easy object orientation
Smalltalk is one of few languages that are purely object oriented. This provides a solid and easy to understand base on which to learn object oriented programming, the most popular approach to programming.
Pro Superb Integrated Development Environment (IDE)
All tools (Inspector, Browser, Debugger etc.) are written in Smalltalk and are live objects in the environment. All sources are present, so that the tools can easily be studied, changed and experimented with.
The same goes for the other components like the compiler, OS-Integration etc.
Pro Agile "interactive" test-driven development
Smalltalk had the original (and still the best) unit test system that inspired it in many other languages (like Java's JUnit). Working with interactive live objects in Smalltalk style TDD makes it easy to teach and learn TDD.
Pro Powerful integrated debugger
You can edit code and swap it in while the program is still running after an exception has already been signaled, or restart from anywhere in the call stack. You can inspect and modify the state of any object. Some Smalltalkers write unit tests and then program exclusively in the debugger.
Pro Inspector makes objects transparent
Programmers must make detailed mental models of the system they are developing. Bugs usually happen when the mental model does not match the actual system. This is one of the greatest difficulties beginners have because most systems are so opaque. It takes a lot of effort to see what's really going on. But in Smalltalk this is much easier, thanks to the powerful tools included in the environment, like the object inspector.
Pro Internal source code and documentation
You can explore how everything works easily.
Pro Incremental compilation
Smalltalk provides an extremely fast code-compile-run-debug cycle. You don't have to stop and reset the world to tweak your program, since you can compile one method at a time while the environment is still running. This is great for beginners to experiment and prototype ideas.
Pro Inspired many other languages' object systems
Pro Open source
MIT licensed implementations Pharo, Squeak, Cuis & Dolphin
and GPL licensed GnuSmalltalk.
Pro Save and restore virtual machine image
A Smalltalk environment can save the state of a running program and later restore and resume execution. This includes the internal state of live objects, multiple thread stacks, and debugging sessions, making it easier for beginners to take the exact problem to an expert for assistance.
Pro Language uniformity
This leads to a very simple programming model (pure OO) that is still very powerful. A lot of stuff that is hard to implement in other languages is easier in Smalltalk.
Pro Graphical user interface
Beginners are usually stuck making command-line applications in other languages, because GUIs are too hard. Smalltalk GUIs are easy enough to start with.
Pro First-class functions with lexical closures
Also known as "blocks". These objects contain reusable snippets of code and as first-class objects they can be passed as arguments to other methods or blocks and also returned from them. "lexical closures" mean they retain access to the variables in the lexical environment they were written in, that is, in the surrounding code.
Pro It invented a lot of stuff
Smalltalk is the inventor of Just-in-Time compilation and the MVC concept, refactoring through their so-called refactoring browser and it was also one of the first adopters of a language virtual machine, closures, live programming, test driven development, an IDE and the development of GUI`s.
Pro As a first language, almost forces you to learn OO design
Hybrid languages (e.g., Java, C#, C++) make it easy to slip into procedural thinking. Smalltalk's pure OO approach makes it hard not to think in object-oriented terms. In addition, since the entire IDE and runtime components are there in the image for you to browse, you have plenty of examples of good OO design to learn from.
Pro Provides a functional way to interact with objects
Many languages today use object orientation, while the most of them stock on the half way in that perspective.
Smalltalk sees literally everything as an object and this includes things like the classes and primitive data types. There is are zero control structures such as selection and iteration, since all is done by sending messages to objects.
It use a lot of concepts from Lisp in order to provide a nice experience for this pure kind of object orientation.
It provides immutable data structures, closures, anonymous functions and higher order functions, while all those functions are objects. This is what makes Smalltalk so simple, elegant, and easy.
All this counts for Pharo, while other implementations as Amber are probably feature complete to it.
Pro Huge language supports most everything
C++ is a large language with an even larger community and following. It has libraries for every kind of task that is possible to do with C++
Pro Powerful memory management
Allows puting large arrays on the "heap" to avoid "stack overflow".
Pro Teaches fundamental OOP
Teaches you to leverage object oriented programming.
Pro Excellent compiler optimization
Both open source compilers (such as Clang and GCC), and proprietary ones (like Intel's and Microsoft's) are very good at analyzing program flow and program optimization. This is mostly due to the widespread usage of C/C++ applications running everything from mobile/desktop/server Operating Systems, to search engines and webserver software, and the demand for performance.
Pro Teaches problem solving
The great STL is the most powerful Data Structure and Algorithms Library. It would benefit you very much in problem solving, your main main way to love programming. The code is much compact compared to Java and C#. No unnecessary classes are in your way; yet when you need classes they are available unlike C. The code runs very fast.
Pro C code can be used in C++ code
Most C code will work as C++.
Pro Teaches low-level programming, but doesn't have as many pitfalls as C
Teaches data types, low-level program flow and the so common C-style syntax while not being as much of a pain as C itself.
Pro STD is often updated
The functionalities keep growing throughout the years. C++11 gave us a soft type of garbage collecting with the smart pointers.
Pro Faster execution of the same algorithms
Because C++ (and its precursor C) are "lower level" than a lot of popular programming languages they are also faster at executing code than Java or C# which require VMs and garbage collection threads.
Pro Universal, portable, best complexity/efficiency trade-off
Pro Best way to understand algorithms
Pro Has lots of library
C++ is mature and everything has standardized library.
Con OO is becoming obsolete
Smalltalk did it best, but the whole paradigm is a poor fit for the expected future multicore processors. Isolated mutable variables with no compile checks is a recipe for race conditions in multithreaded code. Beginners would be better off learning a functional language.
Con Not common
Smalltalk missed an opportunity to become mainstream when its implementations cost $5000 per seat versus $0 open source. New open source implementations (Pharo, Squeak) have minor corporate backers but not yet an IT behemoth. Direct jobs are scarce (but indirectly Smalltalk experience is very well regarded). Online communities are relatively small.
Con Not useful for mobile development
While Smalltalk is very powerful and easy to learn, it doesn't have a well supported mobile distribution, but you'll be spoiled for working in mainstream languages like Java, Swift or Kotlin where jobs are more readily available.
Con Virtual machine in its own isolated world
Smalltalk wants to be the whole OS. While this has tremendous advantages internally, interacting with the world outside the VM is not as easy as pure Smalltalk and must be done via a Foreign Function Interface.
Con Non-standard arithmetic ordering
Since every operation is considered a message sent sent is a specific order, all arithmetic operators have the same precedence. E.g. 2 + 3 x 4 translates to 2 + 3, and the result is multiplied by 4, giving an answer of 24 (instead of the correct answer - 14). Once you are learn this, it can easily handled using brackets, e.g. 2 + (3 x 4), but still a momentary suprise for beginners.
Con Huge language gets in the way of learning
C++ is such an atrociously over-complicated language that its learning curve may get in the way of learning fundamentals. Learning C++ well is a ten-year project, and even experts are frequently surprised by the language.
Con Undefined behavior
Subtle errors can render the entire program "undefined" by the complicated C++ standard. The standard imposes no requirements in such cases. Thus C++ compiler writers are free to ignore the existence of such cases and Bad Things are prone to happen instead. Even experts can't reliably avoid undefined cases in C++, so how can beginners be expected to do so?
Con Module system is not great
C++ uses the
#include mechanism provided by C. Which unfortunately is a poor way of accessing the API of a library. Some of the reasons why the module system is weak are:
Compile time scalability: The compiler must preprocess every header included in a file, and every header included in those headers. This process must be repeated for every translation unit in the program. As can be imagined, this doesn't scale very well. For each header added you are increasing the compilation time exponentially.
Fragile: modules included are treated as textual imports by the compiler. This causes all sorts of problems since they are subject to any macro definitions in the time of the inclusion. If any of these macro definitions collide with a name in the library it can break the library API .
Con No two programmers can agree on which 10% subset of C++ to use
C++ is such a huge and complicated language, that programmers have to learn a disciplined subset of it to reliably get anything done. The problem is, no-one can agree on which subset to use and they can't understand each other.
Con Tough to learn as the first language
Many of the concepts are hard to grasp if you have no prior programming experience.
Con Retains nearly all bad habits of C
Con No reflection
C++ objects are frustratingly opaque. This makes debugging especially difficult, something beginners have to do a lot.
Con Memory leaks and segmentation faults
Because C and C++ allow the user direct access to memory and don't provide garbage collection threads, there is a probability that a program may have a "memory leak", which occurs when something a programmer allocated in the heap is not deallocated properly. Also, attempting to dereference memory protected by the operating system causes a segmentation fault and kills the program.
Con Arcane binding rules
Con Incomprehensible operator overloading resoution
Con Duplicates C features in incompatible ways
Arrays, strings, pointers, etc. have both C and C++ versions. Sometimes the C++ versions are worse. This is more useless trivia beginners have to sort through.
Con Bugs easily corrupt the memory you need to find them
You can usually get a core dump, but often the call stack gets completely overwritten. Compilers are not even consistent in how they map the binary objects to code.
Con Painfully slow compilation
Beginners need fast feedback
Con No way to locate definitions
No modules, just files, and no way to tell where anything came from.
Con Complicated types
Con Undefined behaviors and weak limited type safety
Undefined behavior in a program can cause unexpected results, making it hard to debug. With UB, program behavior may vary wildly depending on optimization settings. There are many cases that invoke UB, such as signed overflow, invalid dereferences, large integer shifts, uninitialized variables, etc. C++ allows for non-type safe operations such as logic errors, wild pointers, buffer overflow, etc. UB and type safety issues create a large number of bugs and security vulnerabilities.