Celebrate LOGO's Birthday with Small Talk


The Logo programming language is 40 years old, writes WIRED.

A Logo spiral
A Logo spiral

Logo is the ancestor of SmallTalk, Sqeak, and through them, eToys.

Seymour Papert led the development of Logo after working on constructivist education theory with Piaget. Logo found its space in educational technology with the advent of the Apple and TI personal computers, and was part of many successful education programs, teaching many fundamentals in a visual, low-barrier way:

In 1980 a pilot project sponsored by MIT and Texas Instruments was begun at the Lamplighter School in Dallas, Texas with 50 computers and a student population of 450. At the same time the Computers in Schools Project was initiated by the New York Academy of Sciences and Community School Districts 2, 3 and 9 in New York City, and supported by Texas Instruments and MIT. [...]

These projects have had lasting results. Logo is still used at Lamplighter where Theresa Overall, who was a leader in both the Dallas and New York workshops, continues to teach and offer summer workshops. Michael Tempel, then of the New York Academy of Sciences is now President of the Logo Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides Logo staff development and support services to schools and districts throughout the world, including New York City Community School District 3. Two of the teachers who represented that district in the original project, Peter Rentof and Steve Siegelbaum, went on to form the Computer School, one of the District's alternative middle schools. All these folks are still "doing Logo".

Of course, Logo hasn't always been successful; not mentioned in the official history of is the project failure inSenegal, but that was due to politics more than Logo.

Regardless, Logo has had a lasting impact on using the computer as an educational tool. If the OLPC program is successful, Logo's descendants will continue its work on a whole new generation of children through eToys.

You can view some historic Logo videos and learn more on the constructivist angle at logothings:


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1 Comment

Smalltalk's roots are far closer to Logo than most people would guess. The defining word in Smalltalk-72 and -74 was "to", for example. And though the language changed significantly over the years you can still see the Logo heritage in the colons (specially the last one) in code like

(1 to: 10) collect: [:item | item*item]

If I may be pedantic, spelling it "SmallTalk" is a good way to tell the world you have never used the language. This is practically the only (if not the only one) language that knows its own name. If you type the following two expressions, one will tell you how many globals the system has and the other will cause an error:

Smalltalk size

SmallTalk size