Teaching kids to code at an early age might be a hot and sometimes hotly debated topic these days, but as early as the 60s, there were already some computer scientists and educators blazing that trail. Sure, it may not have the sophisticated robotics or even fancy graphics of today’s tools, but the Logo programming language has been the first blush with programming of those who would eventually run Silicon Valley and, by extension, the world. Now Google and MIT celebrate 50 years of Logo with the first ever coding Google Doodle. Targeted at the young and young of heart, of course.
By today’s standards, Logo may seem almost too basic (no relation to the BASIC programming language). It is, perhaps, most popular for its “turtle”, basically a small triangle on the screen that you program to go left, right, or forward (you have to make a 180 to turn around). The turtle leaves a trail on the screen where it goes, serving the dual purpose of being a drawing tool.
What made Logo different from educational games of those days was that kids had to type in commands to make the turtle move instead of pressing cursor keys. “Forward 100 (steps)”, “left 45 (degrees)”, and such helped kids learn the basics of step by step commands, planning, and problem solving to create pretty pictures.
Logo may now be an artifact of the past, but its legacy lives on in Scratch from MIT, coincidentally Logo’s birthplace. Scratch is a more visual programming languages that uses blocks, each representing a single command, that you connect like LEGO to make a character move or produce some effect. Scratch is the inspiration for Google’s own Blockly visual programming library. And as an homage to their common parentage, Google Doodle, Google Blockly and MIT Scratch got together to create “Coding for Carrots”.
In the interactive Google Doodle, you take control of a white furry rabbit on the hunt for as many carrots as it can walk over. And to make it move, you of course have to put in the right blocks. The Doodle only has 6 levels, but it could be enough to get kids interested in a more powerful version from MIT Scratch.