Logo, Papert and Constructionist Learning


The 60s

Starting Logo: A Language for Learning

Hi, I’m Cynthia Solomon and I collaborated with Seymour Papert and Wally Feurzeig in developing the Logo programming language at Bolt, Beranek and Newman (1966-69) and then in1969 I joined Seymour at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab where we started the Logo Group.

Logo starts in the 1960s

The 60s 1

In late summer of 1966 Seymour spec’d out Logo to a group of us consisting of Wally, Dan Bobrow and Dick Grant. Seymour had been visiting an algebra classroom where children were learning Telcomp, a language like Basic but unlike Basic it was an interpreter (no compiling before running the code). Seymour was struck by the absurdity of children learning algebra by using an algebraic programming language.

We all had a Lisp background so procedural thinking was a natural component. In fact we initially thought of it as Baby Lisp or Lisp without parens. Danny started implementing Logo in Lisp on BBN’s SDS

  1. He gave it over to me and I gave it to Dick.

At Constructionism2012 Celia Hoyles and Gary Stager talk to Wally Feurzeig and me about the start of Logo.

The 60s 2 -- Logo history interview

Here Seymour talks about Logo and Basic.

Logo for Kids

Seymour articulates the goals for Logo the language.

Logo Goals

In 1967 Logo was ready to try out with children. The first group of children to use Logo were 5th graders at the Hanscom School on the Hanscom Air Force Base, Lincoln, Massachusetts. Seymour taught the children; Wally and I observed. I gave Seymour constant feedback and a new very revised version of Logo was created on a dedicated DEC PDP-1 time-sharing system.

In 1968-69 we used the PDP-1 system with 7th graders at Muzzey Jr. High School, Lexington, MA.

Logo Class - 7th Graders at Muzzey Jr. High 1968-1969

The class met 4 periods a week in Lexington, MA and consisted of 14 students. We had teletypes (model 33 and 35) in the classroom. They were connected to a DEC PDP-1 computer at Bolt, Beranek and Newman. The computer was a dedicated Logo time-shared system. Seymour and I team taught the class. Much of what went on that year is foundational to Seymour’s book, Mindstorms. Here are pictures taken in the Spring of 1969 by Frank Frazier.

These kids made up hilarious sentence generators and became proficient users of their own math quizzes.

The 60s 3 -- The Muzzey Pictures

The children, Seymour and I learned a lot during the 1968-69 school year. We accumulated programming projects. We were ready to revise the language. Of more importance Seymour saw the need for a more concrete (and abstract) object to play with. Turtles were born and named after Grey-Walter’s automaton tortoises Elmer and Elsie.

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