Logo's 40th birthday

Wired Science has a great appreciation of Logo's 40th anniversary. I loved Logo when I was kid -- so much more fun than learning BASIC and COBOL and FORTRAN! I even went to Logo Camp and designed a tank-game. Somewhere on my hard drive, I have a tarball of my old Logo code from 1980.
As I remember it, LOGO was a triangular turtle that roamed across the monochrome screen of an Apple II in my first grade classroom. Wherever he went, a line of ink would follow him -- it came from a pen that was tied to his tail.

My digital friend simultaneously gave me an intuition for geometry and how to think like a computer programmer.

I would type FORWARD 50 and the turtle would move forward. When I gave the command RIGHT 90, he would turn sharply to the right. If I prefaced those two commands with REPEAT 4 and surrounded them with brackets, the turtle would draw a square.


(Photo credit: "Turtle Graphics Ramblings" from Logothings Wiki)


  1. When I was in the 2nd grade (in 1990), we were taught LOGO. By the time I was in high school, the standard computer class involved learning to use MS Word and other consumer apps. When I was 14, I found that change frustrating. Now that I have a degree in CS and have taught programming in a university class, I am appalled at how the standards of computer literacy have changed. Students can work their computers, but they have no idea how to make the computer work. Bring back LOGO!

  2. If you are a teacher or parent and looking for a modern day programming language for kids, I strongly recommend “Scratch.” Scratch is a free programming environment for kids, and you can learn about it (and download it) at http://scratch.mit.edu.

    It teaches you the basics of flow control, conditional statements, even variables.

    I am currently using it to teach 3rd and 4th graders the basics of game design. It is perfectly suited to the task. As with Logo, they will have things moving around the screen after just a few minutes.

  3. I remember learning LOGO in elementary school through a summer camp. At my high school however they started the computer programming curriculum off with HTML(?). LOGO seems to have passed out of the education mainstream (at least in my area) and now in the higher programming classes we have to focus on the developing the programming instincts that I had been taught by LOGO. I miss the turtle

  4. Logo was my first introduction to programming 16 years ago when I was 6. I remember typing spelling mistakes and it would respond “I don’t know how to $COMMAND”

    It didn’t take long until we learned to type f**k myself and it would respond:

    “I don’t know how to f**k myself”

    Ahhh… the good old days.

  5. Squee!!!

    My dad used to teach LOGO at a math summer camp for girls, so I grew up with LOGO, too. I have the nicest memories of whiling away the hours in front of my Apple IIe, making the turtle draw pretty pictures for me.

  6. One of the best conversations I’ve ever had was a few years ago with my friend Graham re: the possibility of designing National Defense software using only LOGO.

    Ah, memories.

  7. Wow, this is the first program I ever used on a computer, way back in grade 1, I think. Good memories!

  8. I’m surprised I’m the first to mention that Logo was essentially a very slimmed-down, highly restrictive form of lisp. Not only did it teach us kids who used it how to program, it also taught us the basic concept of object-oriented programming which seems to be the norm these days.

  9. I learned Logo at University of Quebec in Montreal some 20 years ago I was then finishing my bachelor degree in fine arts. Our teacher was Andrée Beaulieu Green, a great great Fine Arts teacher who learned it while doing her Phd with Seymour Papert at MIT, she then came back to Montreal where she changed the life of many cg artists to be.
    She taught us a lot more than to move the turtle on the screen.
    She had to fight hard to provide us with the computers (apple 2e) required at a time when computer art was just a dream and most other art teachers were deaf and blind to the changes to come.
    Logo gave me a much better understanding of computers and programming and it was much more enlighting than pushing pixels with MacPaint, (pretty much the only creation software available at that time). Many great images, animations and projects evolved from the basic principles of programming in LOGO and now that she is no more, I thank her for all the knowledge and fun she shared with us.

  10. From what I understand, LOGO has been invented precisely with the goal of being a didactic tool – teaching programming, essentially. I was very happy to see that it’s one of the environments included in the XO laptop of the One Laptop Per Child initiative! I too have many fun memories of making the turtle draw things for me – memorably, I was super-proud when I figured out how to make it draw the closest-I-could do a circle… I must’ve been 10? 11?

    (Happy as in : there might have been squealing. Also, can I get a show of hands: who else here wants one of these green, antennae-sporting unbreakable XO puppies? I am curious to see how many we are).

  11. Logo is still alive and well and being useful in new incarnations. A particularly interesting one is Netlogo which was designed to explore emergent behavior by simulating a whole population of interacting turtles. I’ve used it with students to create some neat simulations. It’s been great, because many students used it in elementary school and say, “Wow! I remember this!” and can be productive very quickly. I’ve also used it with my own kids to teach programming. It’s cool. Check it out!

  12. Ah yes there was a strong connection to UQAM (Universite de Quebec a Montreal) at Logo Computer Systems Inc. where I got my first job. LCSI’s implementation competed with Terrapin’s. I don’t recall Terrapin’s origins, but LCSI was founded by several MIT graduates who were friends of Seymour Papert’s. Many employees at LCSI came from UQAM, including graduate students and professors. It was a wonderful environment to work and learn in! I will always be grateful for the opportunities LCSI gave me. Around the time LOGO came out for the Apple II we were working on implementations for the oddest collection of hardware, including the Apple Lisa, IBM PC Jr., Fujitsu PCs, and others I don’t recall but were never sold widely in North America. I got to work on some of the very first Macs when we started to write LOGO for them. LCSI added some interesting font and display techniques to LOGO so it could render Japanese and Arabic. Brian Silverman et al would code LOGO using Symbolics Lisp Machines, where I first saw Emacs and the venerable Meta key. Very fond memories.

  13. If there’s any one “childhood computer program” that made me who I am today, it’s probably Logo. I loved that little triangle.

  14. You made it do the tank game, too!? Sweet! Everyone else in the class was too busy using it as a complicated paint program (*yawn*), though it’s more fun (and effective) than the Spriographs of the 80’s. (And I really missed the Atari’s disappearing tank game…)
    Ironically (and wonderfully), after learning half a dozen other (more professional) programming languages, I’m doing my compuational cellular biology models in NetLogo.
    Go turtle, go turtle, go

  15. I LOVED LOGO! In 6th grade, my school got its very first Apple IIe computers. We had a choice when we had our “computer time” – we could play with LOGO or we could play Lemonade Stand….*yawn*!

    I was terrible at Lemonade Stand…even as a kid I didn’t have it in me to be a capitalist, I guess, so I would spend my hour making that little triangular turtle do all sorts of things. That got me started in computers. That Christmas, my grandmother got me an Aquarius home computer (the poor kid’s version of a Commodore), and I started programming in BASIC. I still miss doing it and every once in a while I’ll find a BASIC emulator online and write myself some little programs.

    Ah, good times…good times…

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