Found out my boss used to make games in the 80s

The founder of my school is a retired woman who has been teaching Montessori for years.

I was talking to her yesterday and found out she did computer tutorials for kids back in the 80s. In 1983, she taught a bunch of girls in Dallas to make adventure games on macs using Logo (that old turtle programming language), and they made over 70 games, kind of parser/cyoa hybrids. They’re all lost now, but I thought was pretty cool!


Probably off topic, but (from the little I remember) logo was an interesting language, that got type cast as a toy and never really caught on.


I grew up in the 90s and remember having posters with the logo turtle in at least one classroom. We never used it though…I am not sure who did. This was in elementary school and we never had any programming classes.


My friend Mark’s dad wrote educational games for the BBC Micro in the 80s. ‘The estimation series’ published by Hodder and Staughton, including ‘Merlin Teaches Tables’. They appear to be missing from the Complete BBC Micro Games Archive, but I think I have one or two of the disk images on my hard drive. The authors were Bill Bailey (Mark’s dad) and Bryan Leonard.

Not IF though!


They seem to be missing from the excellent Flaxcottage educational software site too, who would definitely be interested in any you might have…

(I see they’re in the Centre for Computing History collection…
Merlin Teaches Tables - Software - Computing History )


Loved my Turtle Graphics II cart (I think it was a cart) for c64! It used LOGO and PILOT. As I recall, it had many features, and my young mind did not fully grasp them all. Nevertheless, it had a low skill floor and I made lots of stuff with it.


Logo was pretty awesome. I loved the turtle. I know I never really got a lot of information about how to draw graphics, so it was a lot of fun.

You know, it’s sad, so much from early on in computer science was looked down on because it was a toy, or seemed like one, and it wasn’t serious programming. These days we know gamification can really help the learning experience or get rid of some of the intimidation people may feel over a (gasp) programming language.

I think back then we were still coming to grips with what computers could do and it seemed spoiled to ask that this sort of task be really fun.


As much as I love LOGO + Turtle Graphic, its dependence upon it is unfortunate. I designed and implemented my own TG system, but in the end, SVG like gotoxy is what I use most of the time. LISP like grammar didn’t help since most coders aren’t familiar with the style enough to build productive software.

I do wish more people would pick up on it since it’s great for making animated greeting cards.

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The issues ran deeper than that. I just came across this article from autumn 1977 by a computer science professor that I can only describe as completely goofy. Author Fred Gruenberger is actively annoyed by people using (personal!) computers in ways that he does not, personally and professionally, approve of.

Gruenberger takes potshots at a wide variety of early applications like databases which he seems to think are beneath contempt (“It should be clear at least that problems that can be solved by staring at the ceiling for a few minutes are not good computer problems”) but which it turns out were going to (very quickly!) become really useful and welcome labor-saving and quality-of-life-improving tools for, like, billions of people.

Right around the time I stumbled across this article, Commodore and Atari veteran Leonard Tramiel posted a short article copping to being one of the (not insignificant number of) Computer Industry Decision-Makers around the time Gruenberger was writing who looked at VisiCalc and said no thanks, that seems dumb and useless.

So, in both academia and commercial spheres, there were some major misses when the very things they claimed to be actively looking for were waved under their noses.


At the other extreme, a passable chess playing program is beyond the micro computer; chess is far too complex for miniature machines

Ha. Well, only months later, in 1978 Sargon chess was published. Looks like it one of the first to use use Principal variation search (PV aka negascout). And it beat most people.

Which means the authors probably had a beta version when his article was written.

Sargon source code here. Note the FNDMOV routine sorts the results for PV.


The biggest program I’ve written in Logo was (the beginnings of) a program to write random stories. My main conclusion was that it would be easier in Lisp.
Having said that, when I write Lisp code such as (defun pyr(n) (/ (* n (1+ n) (1+ (* 2 n))) 6)) I find myself wishing I could write infix expressions.
Now, if I could just figure out how to add turtle graphics to Emacs…

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