Classic Computer Magazine Archive A.N.A.L.O.G. ISSUE 67 / DECEMBER 1988 / PAGE 7

Reader Comment

A letter for Logo and Pilot users

    In response to your recent editorial about Atari users: For the past two years, my kids and I have been programming with the two most underrated and unappreciated languages in the history of personal computing, namely Atari Logo and Atari Pilot. (Anybody remember them?) The Atari implementations of these two gems are easily superior to any other for an 8-bit machine. If Atari had been on the ball nine years ago, our schools would surely be full of Ataris rather than Apples. As it stands, the world has certainly bypassed these two languages, and it's a real shame.
    I've often said to friends that, as amateurs, we could easily use up two lifetimes just to explore all the possibilities of our two cartridges and our $100 computer. While I doubt that any of us will ever become as adept or talented as the individuals who grace the pages of ANALOG, we nevertheless enjoy doing our projects and making our mistakes. We compute more for mental recreation than with the hopes of producing anything really useful. In fact, I sometimes think that the most interesting aspects of both Logo and Pilot are their inherent uselessness! One would never bother writing a fast-action game, much less a disk utility or a spreadsheet program, in either language-they are much too limited and slow. They exist for different purposes altogether, but what they do, they do very well indeed.
    Pilot was written with the sole purpose of making it possible for an amateur to write useful educational programs. Period. Originally it was hoped that teachers would use Pilot to create specialized material for their students; but this never happened to any great extent for a variety of economic and social reasons. Pilot remains, however, a wonderful tool for the novice. I have had a great deal of enjoyment creating word and language games in Pilot for my kids and their friends, and I find that they are beginning to try their own hands at it, largely because they can easily (at six and eight years of age) begin to comprehend the logic behind the creation of a program. One needs a lot of Simplicity at that age, and I feel that Pilot's clarity makes all the difference.
    Logo can be a more demanding enterprise. I'm often enthralled by the range and the elegance of the language, much of which it derives from its daddy, LISP, the first language developed to explore artificial intelligence.
    To program in Logo is to be hopelessly drawn into a world of logic and behavior, movement and vector geometry, visions of "flatland" and two-dimensional robotics. The project I have been hung up on lately is trying to simulate the behavior of a living organism within the confines of the Logo microworld. It's hard not to get philosophical when you start fooling around with this stuff!
    The kids, however, regard the Logo turtle as a kind of family pet, residing in a strange, colorful universe, and have taught him (or her, depending on who is at the keyboard) to perform various feats of wonder and derring-do. And because the turtle lives in a world created largely by mathematical calculation, they get a good mental workout when they try to get the little guy to do anything.
    So that's what one family is doing with its computer. I'm hoping that this letter may encourage other closet Logo and Pilot users to drop us a line and let us know what they are up to. Perhaps someone out there has managed to get a machine-language subroutine to run in Logo (heaven knows, I haven't) or created some other bit of virtuosity (or frivolity) that they would like to share. Perhaps we can swap disks and all get some new ideas! Jenny, Adam and I would love to hear from you.
-Craig Rothfuss
37 Broad St. #10
Freehold, NJ 07728