Left to itself, cyberspace will become the perfect tool of control.
--Lawrence Lessig


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Programming language and educational project that is Seymour Papert's lifework.

Papert designed Logo for the express purpose of encouraging children to learn. He began work on it almost as soon as he came to the AI Lab in 1963. In 1967, he and a team led by Wallace Feurzeig at Bolt Beranek and Newman created the first version of Logo. MIT was the primary site where Logo was developed, along with other research sites in Scotland and Australia.

Logo let the programmer control a "turtle," either the robotic turtle designed by Marvin Minsky or a virtual triangle on the computer screen. What made Logo revolutionary was that it was accessible to young children, ages five and up, and designed to "have a low threshold and no ceiling." A child could learn about motion, spatial relations, logic, and probability in a game-making context. Building on simple rules, they can create incredibly sophisticated simulations.

Many theories behind Logo are directly related to Papert's work at the AI Lab and the society of mind concept. For one, Papert observed that children learn language in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. First they absorb the concept of words, then how to combine words into simple sentences. It’s a constructionist, or symbolist, approach: Language is complex, but children learn it gradually by learning words and the rules of linguistics. Logo (meaning "word” or "idea") is learned in the same way, by understanding properties and relationships. Children learn natural language through feedback with people who speak it; they learn Logo by interacting with the turtle through the Logo programming language.

The Logo project really represented the entire MIT AI Lab community, with direct contributions from dozens of people and influences from nearly everyone. It was infused with the playful but brilliant attitude of the Lab's hackers. It was brought to life by the people who figured out how to translate technology into a learning environment. It was transformed as educators brought their own ideas to Papert's.

Logo is a descendant of the AI Lab's core computer language, LISP. Daniel Bobrow, Bill Gosper, and Terry Winograd were just three of the many people who contributed to the Logo project. Minsky himself, applying his mechanical brilliance, designed and built the first turtle. Cynthia Solomon shaped the methodology of the project, its very core. Solomon worked throughout with Papert to make the Logo project a reality. Sherry Turkle, a sociologist who studies the computer culture, strengthened and inspired Papert's thinking.

Programming a computer means nothing more or less than communicating to it in a language that it and the human user can both "understand." And learning languages is one of the things children do best. Every normal child learns to talk. Why then should a child not learn to "talk" to a computer? —Mindstorms
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