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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Logo Programming Language

Someone asked me what the Logo Programming Language is. Many many many years ago, in the early 1980s, I was taught Logo at school. It's an ideal programming language for children because it's very simple and instantly rewarding. The reason why it's instantly rewarding is because it's generally taught using a Turtle.

If you're not familiar with Logo you probably think that I just went insane based upon the previous paragraph, but Logo really is taught with a Turtle. A Logo Turtle is a device approximately the size of a 25 pack of CDs, that's the best comparison that I can come up with at the moment, that has wheels and controls the movement of a pen which draws a line on the floor beneath the Turle as it moves around the room.

"Logo is the name for a philosophy of education and a continually evolving family of programming languages that aid in its realization."
- Harold Abelson
Apple Logo, 1982

There's a great summary of the history of Logo at the MIT web site:

In the mid 1960s Seymour Papert, a mathematician who had been working with Piaget in Geneva, came to the United States where he co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory with Marvin Minsky. Papert worked with the team from Bolt, Beranek and Newman, led by Wallace Feurzeig, that created the first version of Logo in 1967.

Throughout the 1970s Logo was incubating at MIT and a few other research sites: Edinburgh, Scotland and Tasmania, Australia. There were small research activities conducted in local schools, including the Brookline Public Schools, just up the Charles River from MIT. Dan Watt and other MIT researchers documented their work with a small number of elementary school students using Logo. Their reports are among the several dozen Logo Memos published by MIT during this period.

The Logo Programming Language, a dialect of Lisp, was designed as a tool for learning. Its features - modularity, extensibility, interactivity, and flexibility -follow from this goal.

For most people, learning Logo is not an end in itself, and programming is always about something. Logo programming activities are in mathematics, language, music, robotics, telecommunications, and science. It is used to develop simulations, and to create multimedia presentations. Logo is designed to have a "low threshold and no ceiling": It is accessible to novices, including young children, and also supports complex explorations and sophisticated projects by experienced users.

The most popular Logo environments have involved the Turtle, originally a robotic creature that sat on the floor and could be directed to move around by typing commands at the computer. Soon the Turtle migrated to the computer graphics screen where it is used to draw shapes, designs, and pictures.

Some turtle species can change shape to be birds, cars, planes, or whatever the designer chooses to make them. In Logo environments with many such turtles, or "sprites" as they are sometimes called, elaborate animations and games are created.

Logo is a great language to teach children, it's very simple and you get almost instant feedback on the program which you have written. Amazon has some books about the Logo Programming Language available here.

Have fun teching your children, or indeed yourself, Logo, if you have any comments please let me know and if you have any other questions which you'd like me to answer for free please send them to Ben Dash at


Blogger WizardL said...

A time ago I have came across with Baltie ( He's a small magican for teaching programming not by writing text-code but using images as commands. We have started using it in our school 3 years ago and we have a huge response - (see what my son has done

10:49 AM  

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