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Seymour Papert, Creator of the Logo Language, Dies At 88 ( 68

New submitter gwolf writes: The great educator, creator of the Logo programming language, and the enabler for computer education in the 1980s has passed away. Listing his contributions is impossible in an article summary, but the ACM has published a short in-memoriam note for him. Papert is, without exaggeration, one of the people I owe my career and life choices to.
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Seymour Papert, Creator of the Logo Language, Dies At 88

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  • Really a hero (Score:5, Informative)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2016 @09:32PM (#52632691) Homepage Journal
    He was really a computing hero. He supported educating children in the field of computer science. Many of us owe a lot to him. It is a shame that most people never learn who the true heroes of computing were.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      The real sad part is there are no comments here, but theodps rants against computer education for children gets published regularly here and commented on. How pathetic Slashdot has become. It is now just a bunch of xenophobes and Trump supporters and Windows 10 users.
    • by farrellj ( 563 )

      Truly a Hero! I owe him a great deal!

      I got my real start in Computers and Programming due to Logo. I was lucky enough to get a high school co-op placement at Ottawa's Carleton Board of Education's Computer Pilot Project, the Computer P.L.A.C.E. where I got to play with a Terrapin floor turtle, and ended up having to hack it's code fix it's programming to make it draw square "squares". I taught computer programming using LOGO, both Terrapin and Apple versions, to some of the very same high school tea

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Logo was my first ever programming language, even before I had a computer.
      It led to my parents buying me a computer and fast forward 30 years later I'm still programming both professionally and as a hobby.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      British schools got BBC Micro computers in the 80s, and there was a version of Logo for them. It even supported the "turtle" robot, so you could create a pattern on screen and then have the robot draw it on paper. Amazing stuff when you are a kid.

  • RIP, Mr. Papert. My first interaction with a computer was giving directions to a triangular "turtle" on an Apple ][ back in the early 80s. It created a love of computers and launched a very rewarding career.
    • by vbraga ( 228124 )

      Same here, but on a MSX. RIP, Mr. Papert.

    • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

      Same here. And the first programming I did on my own computer, a CoCo, was with Logo.

      When we talk of 'standing on the shoulders of giants,' he was one of the giants.

    • Same for me, it was a fantastically visual way of wanting to learn to program.

      Much MUCH more useful than the 'drag some cute shapes' programming my children are now being exposed to..

      I have introduced them to the turtle graphics module in python, and there are a bunch of free ebooks in the area
      for them to work with. they just love it also.

      So, Sad news, as the world goes on.
      I will draw a few algorithmic stars tonight.

    • Heh, we learned it on IBM XTs in high school. My first crack was LOGO for the Commodore 64, someone lent me their original disk and I cleverly managed to figure out the very simple protection. Why I was interested in LOGO when I was able to crack disks? Well, the BASIC on the 64 was bare-bones, and I liked making drawings without pages of BASIC POKEs and weird math.

      • Did you try the .OPTION commands that replaced the pokes?

        The C64 port took a long time because of the reduced number of page zero registers available. The biggest problem was that location 0 and 1 were used for the parallel bus port, and there were lots of places where we assumed the CAR of NIL was NIL but instead it was random dat. I had a kernel ROM listing to help with the register usage, and later a 6510 Andy Finkel had fabbed for me to use with a logic analyzer to disassemble and set breakpoints on m

  • Step 6 feet under.

  • He will be missed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sombragris ( 246383 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2016 @10:27PM (#52632947) Homepage

    This was a real computer giant. I remember that my dad got wind of his ideas, and he made sure I had a computer available to tinker with in my late childhood and teen years, something that here (Paraguay, South America) was by no means taken for granted back in the time (late 1970s/1980s). Even to this day Dr. Papert made a significant contribution to Paraguayan education in the form of the XO/OLPC laptops, which are instrumental in educating many Paraguayan children. RIP and thanks for everything Dr. Papert.

  • As a part of a comparative languages class in my comp sci program in the '80's, I look ExperTelligence's ExperLogo for a spin on the Mac. I ended up having to drive up to their offices in Goleta, CA to pick up a copy. I liked the syntax, and using what I suppose was a JIT compiler, it was reasonably quick. But, there was no way to create standalone binaries, ExperTelligence didn't stick with it for long, and Logo as a whole didn't get a shot at going beyond a classroom tool.

    Kudos to Dr. Papert and Mr. Feurz

  • Who will answer VGER's call?!
  • In 5th grade my computer teacher challenged me to write something other than simple graphics, so I wrote a rudimentary line editor in Atari Logo. I still remember the effort I had to put into designing it / solving the problems that cropped up and the feeling I had when it finally worked.

    A great intro to programming.

  • A great guy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2016 @11:05PM (#52633123)
    Not just LOGO but a culture of rich, gentle and welcoming education involving technology. And wonderful to work with. I recently dusted off a copy of logo to put out for a tool in enrichment. The kids still took to it like ducks to water. Thank you Seymour (and Mitch, and Steve and the rest of the lab) for bringing smiles to people learning to think through code.
  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2016 @11:10PM (#52633145)

    My first exposure to programming was MicroWorlds, in third grade. I was immediately hooked, and never turned back. I think it's fairly safe to say that if it wasn't for that, my life would be completely different, and probably for the worse. Rest in peace, Dr. Papert. You set out to teach children to program and love programming, and judging by these comments, you succeeded.

  • by gwolf ( 26339 ) <gwolf AT gwolf DOT org> on Tuesday August 02, 2016 @11:16PM (#52633175) Homepage

    When people argue that we have to teach computer science to kids, it's Papert's approach we should be following. It's worth nothing to teach in cool new technologies, as grade school is not meant for work enablement. We don't need kids learning the concept of the fad-languge-of-the-week. We need kids to start learning algorithmic thinking, to understand how to translate a tangible problem into a computer program, and see a mathematically-described result. Many of us got that as kids, and I'm sure that's what sparked so many of the bright minds that pushed the free software movement from a pipe dream into a thriving reality. Programming can be fun. Programming teaches us new ways to think. It's not about marketability of our kids in 5, 10, 15 years - It's about teaching them tools to think, to create.

    Thanks for all of your great work, Dr. Papert.

    • by hhas ( 990942 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @11:15AM (#52636003)

      Algorithmic thinking is fatally overrated. Top-down deconstruction of complex problems is a trap into which generations of modern programmers endlessly fall, because all the algorithmic skills in the universe won't make up for a foundational ignorance of the problem domain. This is why so many modern business and government software systems royally suck: because the people—modern professional software engineers—who build them have zero knowledge or interest in learning the jobs those systems are meant to do.

      What Logo taught was bottom-up constructionism, where you learn the problem space first though exploration and experimentation. As you go, you compose your own vocabulary of custom words to more efficiently describe it, until you've built up both your own understanding of the problem space and your own set of tools for working within it that you can start to construct solutions to the problems at hand.

      For instance, if your task is to draw a city then you don't start by designing the finished roadmap with industrial, commercial, and residential zones, and the complete list of structures that should appear on each—because unless you're already an professional city planner you have zero knowledge or experience in how cities are structured or work. Instead, you start by learning the basics, such as how to construct a house using only the general-purpose primitives you get for free: lines and angles. Using only those, you can create your own words for drawing simple geometric shapes: rectangles, triangles, circles. You can then compose those into words for drawing the outline of a simple building (a rectangle with a triangle on top), a window (a grid of 4 rectangles), a door (a rectangle with a circle for doorknob).

      Once you've got that vocabulary, you can very rapidly iterate a whole variety of words for drawing various shapes, sizes, and types of buildings, choosing to keep the words that work best and discarding the ones that don't. While you're learning how buildings are built, you can experiment with adding other kinds of words for drawing trees, park benches, traffic lights, and so on. And once you've built up your own "city-building" vocabulary, you can very rapidly experiment with different kinds of city structures and layouts to learn what works well and what doesn't, once again capturing the successful compositions as your own reusable words.

      By the time you're done exploring this particular problem space, not only do you have a really good personal understanding of how cities are put together, you've also got an incredibly powerful—and shareable—language for building cities very quickly and efficiently. Thus your original problem requires only a little more top-down work to arrive at a complete solution. And then, if your first completed city isn't entirely to its inhabitants' taste, that same set of tools also enables you to rebuild it very quickly and easily as well; nothing is set in stone, and improvements made at one level automatically propagate to all subsequent levels as well. Or, you could even introduce them to some of the city-building vocabulary you've already created and let them adapt and enhance your initial cities for themselves.


      BTW, if this bottom-up approach sounds vaguely familiar to older programmers, that's because it is: it's exactly how Lisp and Forth systems build things (and Logo, which is a hybrid of the two). When the CS profession created Algol, it made a fatal error: it mistakenly declared Algol a general-gurpose language when it was, in fact, a Domain-Specific Language: a procedural number-crunching language specifically designed for the subset of computer users whose job was to write procedural number-crunching systems. And that broken thinking has been steadily baked in ever since—through, C, Pascal, C++, Java, Swift, Python, JavaScript, and so on.

      So now we have generations of modern mainstream programmers who are experts in using incredibly complex, dumb, and limited "progr

  • Some people did pretty stuff like flowers. I would have liked someone to have taught me variables and if then statements in basic though. We had no teachers who could do that. All I did was make print rockets in basic.
  • Just curious, anyone else out there work with lists and such with logo? It was loosely based on lisp and used "first" and "butfirst" in place of "car" and "cdr". Cool stuff, had an entire other world in there that few people explored.

    • Never did more than make some pretty drawings. Of course I was in grade 2 at the time. I don't think any attempts to get me to understand the abstract concepts of programming would have gone anywhere.
      • The neat thing about Logo is you could start out that way, and then, at least with the dialects I played with in grade five and six, you also had procedural programming concepts like recursion. I remember when i took Pascal a few years later, I already knew a lot of the core concepts, so Logo really was an important stage in my learning to program.

        • Yeah, that's what I liked about it. I learned how to draw with logo and do simple procedures, but I never really paid much attention to it as I was already programming in other languages before Logo. In college a professor pointed out that Logo is based on Lisp, and I went and actually read the documentation at that point (on the TI-99) and found that there was much more to it. Played around with it more and was impressed. I don't like the syntax but I understand why he didn't want to go nuts with paren

    • Yep. I actually did some statistical analysis with it for a project for my Statistics GCSE (? Actually I can't remember but it was GCSE level. Anyway, that's off-topic...) using the version that came with the Amstrad PCW.

      It worked very well for that, both providing list processing and making it relatively easy to draw graphs with the results. A modern spreadsheet is a hell of a lot easier, but I gained a real appreciation for an underrated, and poorly understood, programming language. If 1980s computers

    • first of a list makes sense. But if butfirst means "all but the first", then that is the most retarded function name I've ever heard.

      rest or remainder would be much smarter names.
  • Thank you Dr Papert, I did not know your name until now however I used Logo in my formative years of programming when on work experience from school on a real life mainframe. Moving that turtle around really made me think about programming so I, sir, learned your lessons and appreciate the impact your work had on my life.

    Digital epitaphs seem appropriate - thank you!

  • Logo on the bbc was my first introduction to programming and I've made a career of it ever since. Thankyou great pioneer and sharer of wisdom.

  • I learned it in elementary summer school class and (6/six)th grade. I even bought my own newer version (audio, etc.) copy for my Apple //c.

  • ...but turtle-ly dead.

  • Also co-author - with Marvin Minsky - of a classic, prescient (if a bit narrow) work on what would become neural network pattern recognition; Perceptrons.

  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @08:08AM (#52634701) Journal


    Thank you for Logo, from the bottom of my heart.

    I will find a way to easter egg some turtles into our products today :).

  • by Progman3K ( 515744 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @08:38AM (#52634851)

    In the mid-eighties, I worked as an apprentice at a place where they used LOGO (M.I.T. Experimental LOGO #43 or some other number) on a mini running TSX (or RT-11, can't remember) to do bookkeeping for about 30 small businesses.

    This mini ran about 12 terminals in text-mode (of course) and we had a small complement of clerks entering data.

    This LOGO also had NO turtle, although we had an Apple-II that I was given to take home that did have the turtle-graphics.

    What this LOGO did have were the list and word operators, which we used to write accounting software that had specialized rounding, which was more precise than using something like C floats because you could calculate precision to any arbitrary limit by simply breaking numbers apart as words and calculating their digits to the decimal place of your choosing. By being strings, they were immune to typical numerical-storage problem.

    Another thing I did with LOGO was have almost-constant epiphanies about recursion and abstraction. LOGO was designed to light fires in young minds and it certainly did for me.

    Seymour Papert has thus been a hero of mine since then and I've always longed to someday thank him for his work. I offer up my thanks to his spirit. Everything I ever went on to write in software is owed to him.

    Thank you again, Mr. Papert and may God rest your soul.

    PS - Sadly, one of the partners embezzled the business, which folded and I never got to program in LOGO again professionally, which is a real shame because LOGO was simply wonderful

  • Seymour Papert is a true hero for the fields of computer science and education. To hear him at a lecture was a true intelectual delight. We old-school programmers owe him a lot; I learned to program using Logo and now my son is learning to program using Scratch which is like a third-generation descendant of Logo. His books should be required reading for teachers of all levels and sorts.

  • With a few exceptions, most of the comments here are about computer programming, not learning. I have been working through an ancient copy of Papert's book Mindstorms, which is more about teaching kids to think mathematically (he uses a different word, but same root). As a linguist, I found myself disagreeing part way through when he claimed that learning math was substantially the same as learning a (first) language. It isn't, IMHO.

    Anyone else have comments about his more general contributions? Have th

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson