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Re: Logo

On Sat, 14 Aug 1999, Malonowa wrote:

> > Scott Raney <raney@metacard.com> wrote:
> > [snip]
> > > As for Logo, I must say that I have a pretty low opinion of it, an
> > > opinion shared by everyone I've ever communicated with that knows both
> > > an xTalk dialect (e.g., the HyperTalk language used in HyperCard,
> > > SuperTalk in SuperCard, or MetaTalk in MetaCard) and Logo.  Logo was
> > > designed by Lisp programmers a long, long time ago, and decisions made
> > > in its design probably made sense back then but are really out of
> > > place in today's computing environment.  For one thing, xTalk is so
> > > much easier to learn than Logo, a key factor when trying to introduce
> > > kids to programming.  And in addition to drawing tools, xTalk has
> > > fully integrated widget support, which is crucial for any non-trivial
> > > programming task.
> >
> > But I think we're talking about two things here (though in the same
> > thread).  There's the authoring system, but there is also a
> > programming environment.  To the degree MetaCard or even
> > HyperStudio is a programming environment, it is *much* different
> > from Logo.
> >
> > I think Logo is much more appropriate for teaching programming
> > from a mathematic/algorithmic perspective.  It is quite formal and
> > minimalistic with few special forms, lends itself to a substitution
> > model fairly easily, is based on procedures instead of messages...
> > it's a lot like math.
> Well said here I think. It's good for exploring many aspects of control
> technology as well. Something Metacard can't do unless you programmed it to.
> But then you'd be writing something like logo anyway. :)

I'm not sure I understand the term "control technology".  I don't
think there's much difference between xTalk and Logo as far as the
fundamentals go.  Sure, the syntax is different, but you can draw a
line in MetaTalk just as easily as with a turtle in Logo.

> > It's not object-oriented, and I don't really think it should be.  That
> > might be a good paradigm, but the various attempt to paste OO
> > onto Lisp languages that I've seen is rather unsightly, even though
> > it can be effective.
> >
> > Logo has a significant history to it, with many books and
> > curriculums.
> Every school in England uses logo - that makes 32000+ installed base.

Wow.  That's a *lot* different in the US, where the vast majority of
elementary and middle schools offer no programming whatsoever (if you
call them and ask them about programming, though, many will say "we
teach HTML".  Argh.)  What percentage of the students actually have
any exposure to Logo?  And in what grade levels?

> I don't know of any of them using Metacard and I doubt very much
> that any of them will.

There are some already, but it's a pretty small number (remember, we
don't market to that group at all).  But HyperCard's installed base in
schools is significant in every country.  As would I guess is that of

> I think Scott has to be careful here and think about the world
> market and not just the USA. Seul-edu is concerned with anyone using Linux
> and that includes all nations and all pockets. Metcard for example is way
> too expensive for your average Linux developer to use.

True, but I don't see the point.  We're not talking about selling
MetaCard to these schools, but a separate product based on MetaCard (a
MetaCard *application*).  This could be given away free (no
royalties).  To turn your argument on its head, this is way less money
than those schools are paying for HyperStudio or probably even Logo
now (most versions of it are commercial, and as I understand it, the
installed base of the commercial versions vastly outnumber that of the
free versions).

> > > There is only one justification that I can see for including Logo in a
> > > Linux-for-K12 project, and that is if 100% compatibility with
> > > HyperStudio is a goal.  But this is probably not an achievable goal,
> > > and indeed is probably not even desirable.
> >
> > I don't think we are even considering such a thing.  *Maybe* we'll
> > have something that looks and acts somewhat like HyperStudio, at
> > least on the level that a regular student uses it.
> I should think I'm interested in writing a logo because I'd like to. Isn't
> that the point. Scratching an itch and all that.

I guess.  Certainly individual motivation is the driving force behind
the open source movement.  But others may not be so infatuated with
Logo, and it would be good to offer them an alternative.

> My concern with a product such as Metacard is that it cannot be used in an
> Open source model. Not that I think everything should be open source but I
> believe that development tools should be. I wouldn't want to persuade the
> Metacard people to open their product. My problem there is that if I develop
> something with Metacard then should anyone wish to improve it for the good
> of everyone, they'd be forced to pay a licence for Metacard and if they were
> just your average developer that licence could well cost them nearly $1000.
> So my software couldn't benefit from the bazaar. I won't be using it.

See my comments above about commercial implemenations of Logo.  As for
xTalk, it has multiple implementations, just like Logo, so you're not
locked into one vendor (unless I guess if you need a Linux version
;-)   If MetaCard is too expensive, get HyperTalk, or SuperTalk, or
Serf.  There is even a group forming who is developing an open source
xTalk package.  Having an "open source or nothing" philosophy is all
well and good, but not if it comes at the expense of providing tools
the kids need and doing it in a timely manner.

> What maybe I'd rather see is a slightly different licence whereby free
> software developers could buy the product at the K-12 price but if they
> wanted to commercially exploit their stacks they'd pay the higher price. I
> think that may be a slightly more practical pricing model and a one that I'd
> go for. For example, I could develop some free software here and after using
> it in a real application like that may decide to use it for one of my
> clients. Should that occur then I could justify spending the extra money on
> it.

We've considered a licensing policy like this, but so far have decided
that it's not worth the risk.  The other products we know of that have
tried this haven't fared very well.

> That said, I would never want to tell anyone not to buy it. I'm sure it
> would be a very useful addition to any school's software library.

It is now, but again, this isn't the point.  The issue is whether a
free or low-cost package for Linux with a HyperStudio-like interface
would be useful.  I think it would.  And I think such a package could
be developed relatively easily if a few motivated individuals can be
organized to take it on.

> Roman.

Scott Raney  raney@metacard.com  http://www.metacard.com
MetaCard: You know, there's an easier way to do that...