Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Seymour Papert has died (mit.edu)
820 points by j4mie on Aug 1, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments

Seymour Papert was a great philosopher, whose work on Constructionism has uplifted many children, inspired the OLPC project, and continues to have a huge positive influence on the world.


Here is the source code to LLogo in MACLISP, which I stashed from the MIT-AI ITS system. It's a fascinating historical document, 12,480 lines of beautiful practical lisp code, defining where the rubber meets the road, with drivers for hardware like pots, plotters, robotic turtles, TV turtles, graphical displays, XGP laser printers, music devices, and lots of other interesting code and comments.


Here is a Logo Adventure game I wrote for Terrapin, the first program I ever sold, which they distributed with C64 Terrapin Logo, because they wanted a simple non-graphical game that showed off Logo's list processing capabilities:


Seymour Papert greatly inspired me, and I applied his work on Constructionist Education to the open source version of SimCity for the OLPC.


Although his methods probably contributed a lot to popularization of computing, as a philosopher the mental model theory of knowledge has been demonstrated insufficient a long while ago, although it remained popular in the AI computer science field for much longer, the problems with that theory were known even during the hey-day of Papert's work.

Just take a look at Hubert Dreyfus' work to better understand the issue.

I don't think constructivism and embodied cognition are too far afield, they both have an emphasis on environmental interaction. That sort of intertwingedness goes along with the general thrust of Dreyfus' argument

(+ here's a link to Dreyfus' essay Why Heideggerian AI failed http://cid.nada.kth.se/en/HeideggerianAI.pdf)

IIRC, I wrote "On the Utilities Disk is an Adventure program written by a typical 14-year-old using Logo." We all had a good chuckle over that. You used overlays with LOAD to navigate across roomsets.

Yes. Knowing the typical 14-year old, if you'd actually have written that program as described, you'd end up in a hell of cascading ifs.

The nice thing was that there was no "main program" or parser, it just extended the Logo interpreter top level to be an adventure game!

wait, doesn't that make it trivial to fiddle with the code and cheat? Well, I guess it kinda already was...

>Here is a Logo Adventure game I wrote for Terrapin, the first program I ever sold, which they distributed with C64 Terrapin Logo, because they wanted a simple non-graphical game that showed off Logo's list processing capabilities

Neat. Think it'll run on UCB? Those Terrapin licenses are expensive.

I think I might need some of your nitrous oxide for the LLogo sources, though. I am not fluent in maclisp. :-)

In 200x, when I was in 4th grade, my teacher said that that day, we would be learning some programming. We were strictly a Mac school, and Scratch wasn't as well known at the time, so the language and environment we learned was Terrapin Logo.

There's nothing like looking at the screen and seeing something that you made come to life for the first time. And there's nothing quite like being given a problem that seems impossibly hard at first, cracking it, and seeing the result in front of you. It was a magical moment, and though I would not do any more work in logo (UCBLogo wouldn't compile for me), that sense of wonder and magic, and that amazement and the feeling of looking at something, and understanding the complexity that makes it work, and knowing that you designed it, built it, and made it work, that is why I program. For the sheer joy of it.

Thank you Seymour, for everything.

You youths! I had a similar introduction to Logo, on an Apple ][ at a computer day camp in the summer of 198x. We programmers tend to love learning the shiny new languages, but it's thanks to the enduring idea behind this language that many of us acquired the love. I strive to build something as lasting.

Papert on the turtle, children and the physical version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTd3N5Oj2jk

Like you, I learned Logo on an Apple ][ in the '80s. Apart from some dabbling in between, I wouldn't pick up programming in a serious way until grad school. Despite the long gap, that early start made a huge difference for me, and I'll never forget the simple pleasures that Logo afforded me as a child.

I used Logo on an Apple in the early 90s. I dont recall what model it was though.

Likewise, my introduction to computer programming came in the form of StarLogo (a now wildly changed Logo derivative) in the 6th grade while the 2004 election was winding up. Despite the many years it's been since I've used Logo, this news has hit really hit me with sadness for the loss of a personal icon combined with a rush of nostalgic memories of creating graphics and silly games with Logo, along with the fundamentals and features of a programming environment, presented in a way that would keep me thinking about computer programming for the next 12 years (and I'm sure the next 20).

Many today trot out the Poignant Guide, "Learn You A ..." and related efforts as the future of computer education for young people.

I say give them Logo: I was taught by a schoolmarm with no particular programming background in a public school with 20 other kids. I myself didn't have a computer at home but Logo showed me what I was missing by inserting itself into the curriculum of the "new digital economy": driving kids who would have never used a computer to be programmers. The examples and challenges were fun, deep and made writing toy programs a joy.

To this day, Logo seems to crops where I least expect it: A clever t-refplace joke in the pioneering zine "Mondo 2000" (as well as ads for Terrapin), a Larry Wall interview and even my recent toy implementation of the inconvergent tree: http://zv.github.io/algorithmic-tree.html use knowledge I first learned on Logo.

Today, Seymour and Logo are titans, if only to me.

`crtdo` a new turtle in his memory.

Books make you learn excercises. There is a place for them, but Logo lets you learn by doing, and by seeing. It doesn't try to teach you algorithms, and math, and optimization: That comes later. All logo tries to teach you is what programming is, and why it's fun.

Although, The Poignant Guide has a special place in my heart as well. It may not introduce programming amazingly well, or anything, but it managed to transcend the format of tutorial, and stands alone as a fascinating and entertaining read. I didn't care about the ruby: I wanted to know what would happen to the cartoon foxes, and if The Originals would be stopped.

After coming back from something involving a very weak course on programming (You know how they say that you can either teach what to think or how to think? this teaches neither, somehow.), it's wonderful to see in logo, scratch, the Guide, hell, even SICP, a willingness to teach not only how to think, but why it matters, and the joy it can bring (not that I'm suggesting we use SICP to bring in kids. shudders)

Between somebody who learned a bit of Logo, and maybe was given some excercises, and somebody who did the Hour of Code, one of them has a better understanding of what programming is about, and is more likely to see its appeal (hint: It's not the kid who did the HOC).

Did you know there was a 6502 assembler shipped as part of Terrapin Logo (and the other MIT licensees)? It'd be great to hear from anybody who learned assembler because of it.

I didn't know that. I wasn't even running it on a 6502 system. It was running on a mac, so either PPC or Intel.

I had the honor of meeting Seymour Papert on a few occasions (there's no way that he would have remembered me), and coming away awestruck and inspired each time.

I also read his books and papers, and did a PhD with one of his best-known students, and never failed to come away thorough amazed by his vision, his dedication, and his ability to execute on so much of that -- partly through great research, partly through great execution on his own, and partly through inspiring generations of students of all ages and backgrounds.

Indeed, my PhD research was driven by my interest in pushing Papert's vision one step closer to reality. And my work training at companies around the world constantly tries to make things more constructionist, more exploratory, and thus better for my students.

If you haven't yet read Mindstorms, you should. You might think that it's a book about using Logo to teach kids, but it's not. Rather, it's a book about how children think and learn, and about how to encourage them to think and learn.

It's terribly sad that Papert has passed away, but his vision and ideas live on amount countless people who are better thinkers and educators as a result.

I'll second the recommendation on "Mindstorms." The book is visionary and just as relevant today as when he wrote it. I teach programming and electronics to kids (just an hour a week) and my teaching is heavily influenced by Mindstorms to this day.

In addition, my own first exposure to computers with with LOGO on an Apple II. Papert changed my life, and the enduring quality of his work will continue to change lives for years to come.

Do you have any details of what and how you teach the kids? I am interested in setting something similar up in our neighborhood.

I'm sorry, at the moment I don't have teaching materials in any presentable form. I tried Arduino-based projects, making parts of a 2D game in Swift+SpriteKit, fooling with Minecraft redstone, and worked through Google's blockly games.

Arduino seemed to be click the best, because it involves a lot of working with your hands (both breadboard and soldering) and you can "see" your creation working in a way that you just don't get with pure-software teaching. At least for the ages I was working with (8-10 y/o) blinking a LED held more joy than putting a 2D sprite into a window.

I thought about publishing a more formal project curriculum, but there's a ton of Arduino project books already on the market, so it didn't seem worth it. Instead I just pitch a couple ideas to the kids, see what they want to do, then we spend several sessions building that.

RIP, Seymour Papert.

Scratch is the spiritual successor to Logo.

As Scratch becomes more and more popular, it has been sad to say that there is a tension between the spirit of Scratch and commercialization. Scratch is all about exploration and making mistakes and experiential learning. However, there is a deluge of companies who are trying to create curriculums for Scratch that fit into the traditional School lesson models (canned, cut and dry).

Here are some of the better alternatives:

Google has developed the CS First program which uses Scratch. The interesting thing about this program is that it tries to scale the problem of teaching CS by making it less necessary for the teacher to know CS.


There is also a curriculum guide for Scratch.


Scratch 1.4 is still the best version: Why? Because it was the last version of scratch built on MIT Squeak. There is nothing quite like discovering shift-click r, and seeing the code that built your environment for the first time.

Also, check out Snap! the Scratch 2.0 successor to BYOB that is essentially a stealth Scheme.

When we learned Logo, the teacher was learning right along with us. What a teacher can do, is encourage metacognition, so when a child either gets or not-gets something, they can organize it in their mind.

I like scratch, but it seems so Bubble Gum. Logo on an Apple II had a beautiful austerity to it.

Logo doesn't get enough credit. It is more than just a system for turtle graphics, but a real programming language with a lot of similarity to Lisp. Brian Harvey at Berkeley used to be proponent of even using it as an alternative to Lisp for teaching functional programming to undergraduates.

And I think the best Logo implementation was on the TI 99/4A. It is called "TI Logo" and includes sprites. Full manual here: ftp://club100.org/programming/LOGO/TI%20LOGO%20(phm3109).pdf

While I'm a bit bummed about the general commercialization of some elements of Scratch, I think it's fair to say that there is an encouraging amount of work being done in parallel with Scratch that keeps us from living in a monoculture of blocks.

As examples, the blockly [0] library makes it easier for devs to build blocks-based programming interfaces for a lot of systems. It's been used in App Inventor for building android apps [1], by some of the Code.org (and other) tutorials for hour of code, and excitingly there are some moves to build lego mindstorms programming environments in blockly too ([2] as well as a blog post from google that I can't find right now, ironically, stating they were working with lego on an official one)

There's also snap [3], which started as a project at UCBerkeley to allow scratch users to build their own blocks (e.g., define functions, which was impossible in early versions of scratch), and is, excitingly, written in regular javascript rather than flash (scratch is still a flash app for the most part). There's some legacy notions in snap that make it not the easiest to use (it's all done on canvas elements, and some interface gestures don't work as well as their blockly counterparts, since blockly uses divs and css for blocks), but it's still great and free and open (and works on more devices).

I'm sure there's other stuff out there I'm missing, including classic stuff (like the Boxer programming environment, of which I'm a huge fan), but Papert's legacy measured by the work and people has inspired directly and indirectly is enormous.

0: https://developers.google.com/blockly/

1: http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/index-2.html

2: https://lab.open-roberta.org/

3: http://snap.berkeley.edu/

Adding one more: https://computinged.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/introducing-gp-...

"GP is a new blocks-based programming language being developed by John Maloney (most well-known for developing Scratch), Jens Mönig (developer of Snap!), and Yoshiki Ohshima (one of the developers of Squeak EToys) in Alan Kay’s group. They are all part of the new partnership between Alan Kay and Y-Combinator Research: HARC (Human Advancement Research Community). GP started in the SAP-funded CDG (Communications Design Group)."

Wow. That looks exciting.

I have seen Boxer referenced and it seems like a great idea. Did it lead to something else and if not is there a good reason. I'd like to know more about it but the name makes it hard to search for. Is there a way to run it?

Boxer was the nicest Logo I used. I don't know where you would get it today and you would probably need an emulation of a classic Macintosh to run it. People wanting to extend Scratch should take a look at Boxer because the real problem with Scratch is that it is "flat" while any non trivial system is nested.

Yeah, it's too bad it never really took off. I may be misrepresenting Boxer here (as I was never part of the project, but was a grad student and later lecturer at the UC Berkeley School of Education), but my impression was that it was sort of a victim of its avant-garde ideas at the time.

Boxer was a pretty revolutionary programming environment when it was introduced (see [0] for an example paper from 1986). Great computing ideas (object oriented, dynamically scoped variables, visual programming environment), and an amazing space for pedagogical application.

Imagine that instead of a paper notebook, you could write your ideas in a computational medium that could pretty easily create and run dynamic representations. That's something people keep inventing and re-inventing, and Boxer was one of those really early models.

One core problem (again, all of this is IMO) was that the driving force behind Boxer (Andrea diSessa) utilized it in smaller-scale research. That's not to say diSessa's research wasn't really important - it really was. There's a ton of super-important learning sciences contributions to what we know about how people learn, the nature of concepts and misconceptions (calling into question the very nature of misconceptions as a useful category), and how people's ideas change over time. But that's kind of the problem - diSessa used Boxer as a way to create really interesting environments for his research on learning and knowing. It was never given the heavy-duty push that logo and later stuff from the MIT media lab had. For example, Mitch Resnick and Yasmin Kafai co-edited "Constructionism in Practice", which was a pretty good book that showcased a ton of the applications of logo to teaching (and their work tended toward whole-school interventions).

All that said, as of a few years ago, I believe there was both a windows and mac version of boxer and it was still under development. I'm not sure if that's still true- diSessa has retired, and his website seems unreachable now.

0: http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/boxer.pdf

You can read my thesis: http://klotz.me/thesis.pdf

Yup. Most schools can't authentically do the things that Papert describes in Mindstorms. It goes against their very structure.

I don't blame the commercial vendors -- they are following the public-policy-directed money. I blame the schools for their culture of top-down control and conformity.

And it goes with the grain in Montessori schools. I was introduced to Mindstorms by my mother, a Montessori educator with barely an interest in computers.

It does, and I think Montessori schools are great.

My one complaint is that a lot of Montessori teachers seem to have a blanket distaste for all electronics that lumps the good (Scratch and Logo) in with the bad (passively watching videos all day).

"The fundamental fact about learning: Anything is easy if you can assimilate it to your collection of models. If you can't, anything can be painfully difficult." [0]

Although Papert is most known for Logo, he did not believe learning how to program was specially good in itself.

It is the fact that the computer allows the child to model almost everything (at almost no cost) that allowed that child to develop and fall in love with a topic, the same way he fell in love with gears at a very young age.

In his own words [1]: "It did not occur to me that anyone could possibly take my statement to mean that learning to program would in itself have consequences for how children learn and think. [...] But encouraging programming as an activity meant to be good in itself is far removed, in its nature, from working at identifying ideas that have been disempowered and seeking ways to re-empower them."

[0] Papert - "Mindstorms" in the Foreword: 'The Gears of My Childhood'

[1] Papert - "What’s the big idea? Toward a pedagogy of idea power"

From the same Foreword:

"A modern-day Montessori might propose, if convinced by my story, to create a gear set for children. Thus every child might have the experience I had. But to hope for this would be to miss the essence of the story. I fell in love with the gears. This is something that cannot be reduced to purely "cognitive" terms. Something very personal happened, and one cannot assume that it would be repeated for other children in exactly the same form.

My thesis could be summarized as: What the gears cannot do the computer might. The computer is the Proteus of machines. Its essence is its universality, its power to simulate."

2016 strikes again. :(

Seymour Papert was "co-creator of Logo" in much the same way that Doug Engelbart was "creator of the mouse". Their ideas were bigger than something you can fit in a headline. Papert believed that computers had a unique potential to help us learn and think. Anyone interested in computers or education should check out his book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas.

I want to emphasize the "or" in that last sentence -- everyone should read Mindstorms.

"to augment human intelligence"

For many years, I completely associated Logo with "turtle graphics" -- like it was a toy for kids to learn programming ideas. I only realized a couple years ago that it's a pretty capable language. The best references I found are a 3-volume set that covers using Logo for symbolic computation, making compilers, a diff tool, etc. PDF/HTML at https://people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~bh/v1-toc2.html

My favorite Logo-for-relative-grownups work is https://www.amazon.com/Turtle-Geometry-Mathematics-Artificia... -- yes, with the same coauthor as SICP. It's about math more than CS, and it's really good: by the last chapter you're figuring out motion in general relativity. It has a spirit of DIY exploration unlike any other math book I'd seen at the time.

Logo is essentially just Lisp without parenthesis. Everything is possible, and it's all self contained and defined in terms of itself!

Leigh Klotz wrote a 6502 assembly language assembler in Logo for Terrapin Logo for the Apple ][ and C64, which you could use to extend Logo do to anything you wanted, like interfacing to hardware.

I've been playing with Lhogho - Logo compiler [1]. The creator has done some amazing things with it and other projects too.

I had an OpenGL spinning pyramid up in 10 minutes and an EXE for windows and an executable for Linux too. Pretty cool, but it is not being developed any longer. It runs fine on my Win 10 box and Linux Ubuntu 14 box.

I found it when looking into Logo because I was working with the modeling software NetLogo [2].

[1] http://lhogho.sourceforge.net/

[2] https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/

"People laughed at Seymour Papert in the sixties when he talked about children using computers as instruments for learning and for enhancing creativity." - I'm glad he continued his work. My most fond memory of when I first saw a computer.. and it was running logo. I was amazed by all those keys! I would definitely not be here today if it were not for this gentleman. I got into trouble in school for throwing away the provided instructions and started to hack that turtle into writing my name the moment I realized I could control it. I never looked back from that day, I was 8 years old. RIP Seymour.

My office was next door to Seymour's office at the Media Lab. This was before the motorcycle accident in Vietnam. I was a freshly arrived student from India. His main observation about India was about how the IITs were terrible for the country because they left such a profound debilitating effect on those who did not make it to those schools.

Interesting. Greetings from India .

Could you elaborate on his thoughts on that ?

I too sometimes feel like I've missed out on a good education. But I feel it's too late now to change that. :(

My guess is that Papert believed that IIT curriculum (or similar) should be taught everywhere, not limited to the few seats in IIT.

I'm not sure about this. Stanford/Harvard is much more than the curriculum.

Based on what you are responding to, it sounds like you are saying those not at said schools should not learn what is in the curriculum.

I don't think the comment meant that, rather that a lot of the success of those institutions in educating people comes from having better facilities, better teachers, better community, etc.

>better facilities, better teachers, better community

This. I had a few good teachers at university that taught me a lot, this made it painfully apparent how little I was learning in some other classes. I guess it's the same everywhere but I suppose you'd expect that the prestige of the IIT would attract the 'better teachers' of course in practice it probably attracts the more prominent experts which isn't the same thing at all ;-)

It is likely referring to the criticisms that IIT creates a socioeconomic pecking order with IIT as the crème de la crème and all the prestige associated with it. I'm not sure, but how much value is seen being an IIT graduate? How much of an edge would it give you in your career?

The advantage is huge.

I'd find it hard to quantify, but an IIT graduate can expect to earn atleast 4-5 times more than the average graduate over their life time.

And owing to the huge population , most people are simply locked out of a lot of the best jobs and positions which such an elite degree can open up.

Sorry, I missed responding to this.

His point was that there are many many many more students who don't make it to IIT, and feel that not going to IIT has led them to not be confident in their abilities.


Technology In Education The committee examined technological advances in education. OCTOBER 12, 1995

Alan Brown Superintendent Public Schools

Chris Dede Professor George Mason University

Jeffrey Joseph Vice President U.S. Chamber of Commerce->Domestic Policy

Alan Kay Fellow Apple Computer->Learning Concepts

Cheryl Lemke Associate Superintendent Illinois->Board of Education

Edward McCracken President and CEO Silicon Graphics

Deborah McGriff Senior Vice President Edison Project

Robert W. Mendenhall Vice President IBM->K-12 Industry Division

Seymour Papert Professor Massachusetts Institute of Technology->Technology

David Shaw Chief Executive Officer Shaw Investment Company

Pat Wright Vice President TCI Educational Technologies

This is a long 1995 congress hearing video that I doubt many people have time and patience to sit through. But if you fast forward to the debate between D.E. Shaw and Seymour Papert/Alan Kay, you will find out 20 years later, the hardware progress is almost exactly as Shaw had predicted, on the other hand, we are far from the vision of Seymour Papert and Alan Kay.

At least, I think we have hit the point where a 5 year life cycle for a $1000 computer is reasonable.

On the other hand there's still a lot of teaching where a single person sits in front and tries to broadcast knowledge to a group of students, which to me seems absurd. The fact that the most obvious difference between schools now and 30 years ago is that whiteboards, powerpoint, and flatscreens have replaced blackboards, overhead projectors, and film projectors was perhaps predictable, but seems wasteful.

Thanks for the observation on the 5 year life cycle.

But if we think of the "education" in 5-year stages: the first is elementary school, the second is middle and high school, the third is college, the fouth is grad school.

So the the "life-long" educational computer budget for each student is $4000.

Do you have an approximate timestamp?

Python has a "logo inspired" turtle in the standard lib: https://docs.python.org/3.5/library/turtle.html

We played with it with my son and it brought back memories from the 80s when the French government made a big push on Logo in the schools.

Oh man, you absolutely made my day. I've been teaching my fiancee bits of Python for the past couple days (her first code ever!) and this library made it all make sense. It let her take all the little concepts I taught her, and put them together to make something cool. She just wrote a street with houses on it, generated by a simple for loop!

The freely available online book Think Python is a fantastic introduction to both CS and Python and includes a chapter on turtle graphics with some fun exercises.

There's a Udacity mini-course with a fun section on Python turtle graphics, too.

https://www.udacity.com/course/viewer#!/c-ud036/l-1004409226... (UD-036 Programming Foundations with Python, lesson 2A)

>Python has a "logo inspired" turtle in the standard lib

Yes. Here is an example of its use, that I wrote a while ago:


Wow, nice! Thanks for mentioning it.

A sad day. My first programming experiences were with Logo, before I even realised that was what it was.

In primary school we had a robot turtle attached to a BBC Micro with a long cable which trundled around the floor drawing wonky shapes. At the time it was one of the most amazing things I'd seen - and was probably similar to, if not exactly the same as this: http://www.classicacorn.freeuk.com/8bit_focus/logo/logo.html

Later, in secondary school, I remember amazing our teacher by getting the Acorn Archimedes we had to produce multicoloured spirograph-like patterns.

Being able to type something - and then the computer actually going and doing it (or not) was both frustrating and fantastic, and left me with a lifelong interest in programming and learning new stuff.

Thank you Seymour.

One of my favorite Papert quotes from Mindstorms. I think it summarizes the potential of computers to revolutionize learning by empowering children to be autonomous explorers instead of learner-automatons. I hope one day our education systems will recognize this and flip the system, but it's hard to change culture:

IN MOST contemporary educational situations where children come into contact with computers the computer is used to put children through their paces, to provide exercises of an appropriate level of difficulty, to provide feedback, and to dispense information. The computer programming the child. In the LOGO environment the relationship is reversed: The child, even at preschool ages, is in control: The child programs the computer. And in teaching the computer how to think, children embark on an exploration about how they themselves think. The experience can be heady: Thinking about thinking turns the child into an epistemologist, an experience not even shared by most adults.

If you haven't read Mindstorms yet and you have any interest at all in how learning, mathematics, and programming are interrelated then please take a moment to go buy it today.

There's little risk that Papert's ideas will fail to last—they are already embedded in so much of how we think about programming—but reading that book helps to emphasize just how far we are away from the ideas he was able to see just by talking with people about how they learn.

Truly, truly inspirational man. I'm sad he's now gone.

I'm an engineer at Pedago, and work on a product called Smartly (https://smart.ly).

Although the target audience differs a bit, Papert's work was the philosophical bedrock for the work we're doing. In fact, when the company was founded, it was agreed upon that it'd be best for all employees to read Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas. If you haven't read this book, and you are even the slightest bit interested in education and how we construct mental models, it's definitely worth the read.

I only hope he would have approved of what we've tried to build!

RIP, Seymour Papert.

Anecdote: Logo was used in French 80s National "Plan Informatique Pour Tous" https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_informatique_pour_tous (Computing for all), running on Thomson MO5 terminals distributed in many schools. Kids (6-9yo I believe) would learn to "program" using it. For the younger ones it was mostly about moving that infamous turtle, and that was it. It was still something utterly magical, even though the lightpen bundled with the MO5 was also a big part of it.

I remember using logo during elementary school a bit later (late 90s), the computer room was full of old computers, not sure if they were MO5, but the keyboard looks familiar. I loved it. I was so happy when, back home on windows 3.1, I could open my drawings saved on a floppy disk.

A good memory is the day I found the Help page with instructions on how to draw a wireframe 3D sphere. This was my first successful introduction to the power of "RTFM".

I remember playing with logo on MO5. The teacher used a TO7. IIRC we managed to get some geometrical figures using loops, like eg a "square-y spiral."

Yes, that's what I recall too. Most kids were confused by the relativity of orientation since left when facing down is right ... After that classes were about the word processor and paint program.

Something I wish I could investigate; was the network infrastructure. I don't know if my school was special but there was a bit networked server that could communicate with other schools (we even had online contests). I also remember seeing its screen trashed. Teacher said "there's a virus.".

If you are an ACM member, you can download Papert's classic Mindstorm book here: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1095592&dl=ACM&coll=DL&CFI...

(yes, the lego robot gets its name from this book)

Just yesterday I finished "Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams" by Resnick who builds heavily upon Papert's work.

Mindstorms is on my backlog.

I have fond recollections about my first contact with Turtles. It didn't shape me or anything like that, but I'd like to take Logo out again and play with it.

Is there a recommended modernish Logo (running on Windows), or should I simply go to Processing?

EToys is quite nice http://www.squeakland.org

It's a Smalltalk environment extended with a drag-and-drop scripting system. All (literally, all) of the graphical objects can be used as turtles (they have a "pen", and methods for "forward", "left"/"right", etc.).

The really nice part is that it's "turtles all the way down": the entire GUI (scripts, text, buttons, etc.) is made out of the same stuff as user-created objects; you can write scripts which tell other scripts how to move around; and write scripts to tell those scripts how to move around; and so on.

It comes with a bunch of pre-built objects, including a musical keyboard, a paint program, etc. and there are projects like "physical etoys" for hooking in physical sensors and actuators, so you can make a physical turtle.

Also check out The Children's Machine. Some similar content to what's in Mindstorms, but it was written years later, based on further research.

A favorite quote: [O]n my reckoning, the fraction of human knowledge that is in the [school] curriculum is well under a millionth and diminishing fast. I simply cannot escape from the question: Why that millionth in particular?

I was told in another thread [0] that NetLogo isn't really suitable for "turtle graphics" and is apparently for "actor based modelling". I certainly found the interface overwhelming.

When I last used Logo it was in mswLogo [1].

There's also Lhogho [2], Python's turtle module [3] and FMSLogo [4]

0: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12149061

1: http://www.softronix.com/logo.html (not sure if this is the original site)

2: http://lhogho.sourceforge.net/

3: https://docs.python.org/3.0/library/turtle.html

4: http://fmslogo.sourceforge.net/

> Just yesterday I finished "Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams"

Oh, that's a great book.

Yes! A great read even if you don't have a CS degree. It helped me get the emergent behavior bug, the same way NewtonScript made OOP click for me.

The descendents of his multi-turtle Logo variant, StarLogo, are still going, including online. http://web.mit.edu/mitstep/projects/starlogo-tng/learn.html http://www.slnova.org

Small Basic has a Turtle object: http://smallbasic.com/doc.aspx?o=Turtle

In addition to what others have mentioned, Racket also comes with a turtle-like graphics module:


His central tenet could be useful in rebuilding the U.S. education systems more like Finland where it is project based, real-world based.

"The central tenet of his Constructionist theory of learning is that people build knowledge most effectively when they are actively engaged in constructing things in the world."

"you cannot think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something"

I grew up in the late 70s and early 80s. I first learned about programming from my father, who worked at DEC during its prime. To this day I deeply appreciate him sharing his love of the field with me from ayoung age. My first computer-related memories are learning to program in BASIC on a kit computer we had in our unfinished basement. I loved learning in a cold basement cellar surrounded by pieces of electronic gear in a makeshit office.

My second earliest memory about computers centers around learning Logo on an Apple II (I believe) in third grade. I remember exactly what Seymour describes: being shown the basics, and then being free to explore by making the turtle do what I wanted it to. I remember sketching designs in a notebook and then asking enough questions about angles and distances to be able to implement my designs.

I think my love of programming comes from an equal mix of people like my father who I could learn from directly, and people like Seymour who created systems that made it possible to learn independently.

You can try LOGO in your browser with this Javascript-based interpreter by the inimitable Joshual Bell: http://www.calormen.com/jslogo/

Thanks for the link.

I wrote a simple LOGO program to honor Seymour Papert.


Of course, Logo was just a means to an end, something that was meant to be one example of many as to how to introduce children to the medium of computing. As is often the case the wider message was lost -- to me this was much like when englebart died and he was called "the inventor of the mouse." Mindstorms is a must read.

Seymour Papert and Paulo Freire Debate Technology and the Future of Schools


Wow, two of my heroes together! Sure it will be better than Batman Vs Superman...

Seymour Papert was an inspiring and caring researcher, and he will inspire many generations to come. His work was truly groundbreaking, subtle and profound, and I encourage everyone to read some of his books, notably Mindstorm and Children's Machine



LogoWriter was my entry into programming. I started with the turtle in elementary school, and in early high school my mind was blown when I leaned about the "flip side", where you could use functions and script things.

In grade 7 I used it to make an elaborate multi screen Sierra inspired game that took the better part of the year to make. What I would give to have a copy of it now...

RIP. Thanks for Logo and everything else.

Anyone interested in educational technology should read Mindstorms and Powerful Ideas. Papert described how technology should be used in schools and also predicted most issues and trends with education today.

Papert work is also present in most educational/programming toys we see today - Scratch, Kibo http://kinderlabrobotics.com/kibo/, LittleBits, LEGO Mindstorms all owe their roots to Paperts ideas.


Absolutely, Mindstorms is one of the best books about learning ever written. Everyone should read it. Buy it now!

You can find some of his work at: http://www.papert.org/

and more background info on him on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seymour_Papert

New York Times coverage, "Seymour Papert, 88, Dies; Saw Education’s Future in Computers":


Truly a legend, will be sorely missed

Logo was the first language that familiarized me with the fundamentals of programming and got me excited about computers back when I was in 4th grade in India, in the late 90s. It's amazing how a person's vision and hard work can have such far-reaching impact. I'm grateful for his life and work. Rest in Peace Seymour Papert.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Turtles

Wow, RIP - he was a big inspiration to me professionally both in terms of the tech he helped build and in terms of the learning theory of which he was a proponent. (I also work at the intersection of education, learning sciences, and technology).

[0] is a great video from the early days of LOGO, and he's pushing notions of programming for all that felt new and revolutionary in the 2000s.

Mindstorms [1] is a great book if you're interested in his ideas about learning.

0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMzojQFyMo0

1: https://amzn.com/0465046746

As a child of the 80s logo was one of the first languages that I learned. Although the relative motion was difficult to understand, and functions seemed to be impossibly hard - they worked eventually. 15 years later when I encountered functional programming for the first time I remember the shock and awe that somebody had the foresight to plantvthose seeds so long in advance.

Later still I became a teacher, and learning about constructivism for the first time I encountered Seymour's published body of work. So mindblowing. The passion and the vision inspired my career.

RIP Seymour, you will be missed, but after what you have given to the world you will never be forgotten.

He came to my high school to teach for the academic year when I was 16


He was a very, very warm person that clearly loved children. I remember him juggling oranges (or balls?).

I wanted to work with Papert and implemented LOGO with graphics on the university's computers when I was 16 using an instruction manual from Bolt, Beranek and Newman (now BBN Tech). I still remember showing it to him.

Actually, when you look at any kind of programming, it is:

Turtles, turtles all the way down.


I never had the opportunity to use Logo, but I think it's obvious how much influence Seymour had on our industry and many of our paths. RIP.

I just installed Scratch and I find it awful but I am not a teenager. When a child realize that to simulate a small movement or scene you need to feed the computer with a lot of parameters he/she get bored. Fractals, like the Julia image, inspire us with deep thinking. What we want is to learn new concepts in such a way that the ratio power/(number of parameters) is very low. The logo idea is not about a turtle or a moving pen, is about the realization that you can draw complex images with a few parameters. I see loops as a form of parameters in a program. Snake moving is boring, we want to drive a drone. Virtual reality is a way of improving the way in which we feed parameters to the machine, another way is the machine learning about the programmer, completion of sentences, suggestions and predictions are a first step. A new logo is needed but one without turtles.

I very clearly remember using Logo in 1st grade over 30 years ago. Looking back, it was clearly what hooked me to get into CS.

Thanks Dr. Papert!

History of the original LOGO turtle (the actual robot):


Turtles are older than that, 1950s.

I had just started learning NetLogo, which led me to Lhogho, a compiled Logo, and then references to Seymour Papert's book Mindstorms that piqued my interest. I'll have to give it a go seeing as how many people have spoken so highly of this book. Sad news go lose such a thinker.

What an awesome contribution. I had a good chat with an educationalist about Logo and the hardware device that I experienced in the 70's with a pen that we programmed in primary school, we had a super progressive maths heavy headmaster, hey, maybe that explains something...anyway, a comment was that the more modern turtles made the pen inside the device less obvious and that this small change led to a diminished experience as the children did not get to see first hand the final act of creation, instead it came out of a 'magic box' that did something they maybe did not comprehend, these kind of subtle things show that inter-disciplinary work is super important.

I did not have a fortune to get to know the LOGO or even SMALLTALK languages. By the time I've heard about it, it is the C++ or even C, and all us "professionals" dismissed this. I've just read up on the LOGO language on the Wiki, and some of its fortes are based on its roots in functional (encouraging recursions over a set) and declarative style. These people were already thinking about many years ahead for me. I would imagine my career would have been more enriched if I have encountered this early on in my life.

I made an account today, just to comment on this news. Seymour Papert's work on Constructionism really struck a chord with me. I first learned about his work in college, and things like Logo really resonated with me - to point where I have now changed my career path from an engineer to one that is more education focused. I really hope people everywhere, and at least users on this site will learn more about his work and his importance.

Perceptrons remains one of my favorite books in many ways. Obviously the single-layer networks Minsky & Papert analyze are very primitive relative to today's deep neural networks, and the actual mathematical content may not be of direct use today. But the arguments were beautiful & insightful, and the exposition clear. For anyone interested in a mathematical understanding of computation in (artificial) neural networks, it's still not a bad place to start.

This is the first time I've heard of Seymour, but it looks like he really tried to increase education around programming and computers, especially with younger kids/teenagers (e.g. Logo in Lego Windstorms, One Laptop Per Child), and for that I'm deeply respectful. Making computers and programming more accessible is really wonderful.

RIP Seymour Papert.

Sad day.

I think Bret Victor is right in that Seymour Papert's ideas are not useful only in teaching children about computers.

This essay inspired by Mindstorms is a great read http://worrydream.com/LearnableProgramming/

He said “the fundamental fact about learning: Anything is easy if you can assimilate it to your collection of models. If you can’t, anything can be painfully difficult.” This is very revealing about the actual nature of learning, human and machine, and it's something that the ML community has simply ignored.

my first memory of using a computer is Logo where we were asked to do anything. I usually gave very large numbers and got interesting geometric patterns on my screen ...exciting stuff for a 10 year old.

As a math teacher with a background in computer science, Papert's work has influenced me tremendously, although I never got the chance to meet him.

His spirit lives on in his books.

Seymour Papert Tribute at IDC 2013


Learning Logo on a Microbee in 1987 was my first introduction to computers. I remember being immensely excited when I figured out how to draw a circle.

This post might be competing for the "Most time spent on the front page" Award, right?

RIP. Also check http://phratch.org

Where I met Logo:

1984, Devotion School, Brookline, Massachusetts, Apple computers, Then at home: TI-99/4A.



Thanks for your work, Mr. Papert

Announcement on front page of the Logo Foundation: http://el.media.mit.edu/logo-foundation/

Better but not great because the new link is not specific to this story. This is a better link


It was submitted but incorrectly marked as a dupe


Thanks very much. We've changed to that from http://el.media.mit.edu/logo-foundation/.

Black bar, please.


Thank you!

I didn't do it. Just noticed it.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact