An array in Smalltalk is similar to an array in any other language, although the syntax may seem peculiar at first. To create an array with room for 20 elements, do24:
x := Array new: 20
Array new: 20 creates the array; the
x := part
connects the name
x with the object. Until you assign
something else to
x, you can refer to this array by the name
x. Changing elements of the array is not done using the
:= operator; this operator is used only to bind names to
objects. In fact, you never modify data structures;
instead, you send a message to the object, and it will modify itself.
x at: 1
The slots of an array are initially set to “nothing” (which
nil). Let’s set the first slot to the
x at: 1 put: 99
and now make sure the 99 is actually there:
x at: 1
which then prints out:
These examples show how to manipulate an array. They also show the standard way in which messages are passed arguments ments. In most cases, if a message takes an argument, its name will end with ‘:’.25
So when we said
x at: 1 we were sending a message to whatever
object was currently bound to
x with an argument of 1. For an
array, this results in the first slot of the array being returned.
The second operation,
x at: 1 put: 99 is a message
with two arguments. It tells the array to place the second
argument (99) in the slot specified by the first (1). Thus,
when we re-examine the first slot, it does indeed now
There is a shorthand for describing the messages you
send to objects. You just run the message names together.
So we would say that our array accepts both the
There is quite a bit of sanity checking built into an array. The request
6 at: 1
fails with an error; 6 is an integer, and can’t be indexed. Further,
x at: 21
fails with an error, because the array we created only has room for 20 objects.
Finally, note that the object stored in an array is just like any other object, so we can do things like:
(x at: 1) + 1
which (assuming you’ve been typing in the examples) will print 100.
GNU Smalltalk supports completion in the same way as Bash or GDB.
To enter the following line, you can for example type
‘x := Arr<TAB> new: 20’. This can come in handy
when you have to type long names such as
which becomes ‘Ide<TAB>D<TAB>’. Everything
starting with a capital letter or ending with a colon can
Alert readers will remember that the math examples of the previous chapter deviated from this.