Happy Birthday Mr. Turtle!

LogoWriter Screen

I read today that LOGO is turning the big 40. I have fond memories of this particular programming language because when I was in elementary school we worked with LogoWriter on our Apple IIgs. It was one of the earliest and most formative experiences I had with a computer and I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned experimenting in LogoWriter. Driving the turtle around the screen by typing commands in on the “Front Side” just to see what they would do, and going to the”Flip Side” to write more in depth programs presented an intuitive way to introduce some pretty complex fundamentals of computer programming.

The history of LOGO can be traced back to LISP, and a robot that had a resemblance to an actual turtle, and therefore when LogoWriter was created, it was natural for the cursor to be a digital turtle. The turtle would start in the middle of the screen and you could move it around with simple commands like repeat 2 [fd 70 rt 90 fd 20 rt 90] to draw a rectangle. These commands were easy enough for an elementary student to grasp, but they also introduced more complex programming concepts like loops, code view, pixels, and syntax. Not only was LogoWriter a drawing tool, but it was also a pretty capable computational language as well.

I got pretty good at LogoWriter and it even became my first extracurricular event. I was part of the Oxbow Creek Elementary LogoWriter team. We would stay after school and write programs as practice for the LogoWriter competition. The competition consisted of a team of four coders that were presented with a series of challenges that we had to complete within a time limit. I went to the competition twice and on my second venture there my team placed first. We got a large medallion that I still have tucked away in a box somewhere.

Unfortunately it seems as if LOGO has all but disappeared from the classroom, and I’m not aware of anything like it. It’s a shame really, since it’s never too early to teach a geek how to code. Happy Birtdhay Mr. Turtle, you are not forgotten!

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