Continuing my exploration of LCSI’s “Sprite Logo”, let’s break the shrink wrap and open the box. These photographs preserve the original packing order. Despite dirt and water damage to the exterior, the box contents appear pristine.
LCSI “Sprite Logo” comes in a large cardboard box with similar design to the “Apple Logo” box. Compared to “Apple Logo”, the “Sprite Logo” box is larger, more colorful, and displays patterns that suggest interconnections between multiple turtles. Notice the turtles taking on different shapes, such as an airplane, flower, dog, cat, or truck. The subtitle promises “An Exciting, Interactive, Computer Language Featuring Multiple Dynamic Turtle Graphics.”
On the front, the topmost green box contains a short, sprite-specific Logo program:
TELL [4 5 6 13 17 3 16 24]
EACH [SETSHAPE WHO]
EACH [RT RANDOM 360]
EACH [FD RANDOM 75]
The back of the box provides some details. The text does not compare Sprite Logo to Apple Logo but does emphasize words that set Sprite Logo apart like “interactive”, “dynamic” “colorful”, “moving”, and “animation”.
A dynamic, powerful and friendly language system for the Apple II family.
Sprite Logo is an exciting interactive computer language with complete dynamic graphics capabilities. Sprite Logo is easy for beginners to learn and use. It is a powerful modern programming language which experienced programmers will find a continuing challenge.
Sprite Logo …
- is a complete graphics package featuring multiple dynamic turtle graphics — a quick easy way to create colorful, moving, interactive video displays or games
- has thirty easy-to-direct turtles each capable of
- independent motion and its own turtle graphics
- assuming a great variety of shapes and colors
- interacting with one another and with the display screen environment
- is a language for learning: adults and children quickly and easily begin to write programs and acquire valuable problem solving skills
- is a modern, procedural programming language with list processing, recursion, arithmetic and other mathematical capabilities
- enables you to create animation, simulations and other educational software
To use Sprite Logo you should have one of the following systems:
- An Apple IIe Computer or an Apple II or II Plus with 64K of memory
- An Apple II disk drive with a 16-sector disk controller card
- A color TV or monitor is preferred but Sprite Logo can be run with a monochrome display
Curiously, the box does not mention an enclosed hardware card, and the only sign that the box contains hardware is the FCC ID (CJU79JSPRITE) on the left side. The ID is on a sticker, suggesting that the boxes were printed prior to receiving the ID. The FCC database shows that LCSI received approval on 2/16/1984. The bottom of the box has a stamped number, 2575, that is likely the serial number for the contained hardware card.
Next, I’ll open the shrink-wrapped box …
In the 1980s, there was a lot of enthusiasm and press surrounding the Logo programming language. Logo and the underlying pedagogy promised a revolution in education using the new personal computer. Unsurprisingly, there were versions of Logo for most personal computers of the era, and, in many cases, multiple versions of Logo for each computer. According to “Antic” (March 1984, pages 28 – 31) LCSI, one of the world’s leading Logo vendors, had 15 contracts to develop Logo in mid-1983.
“Creative Computing” (December 1984, pages 94 – 106) provides a summary of the various Logo versions available in 1984. A summary of the Apple II versions based on this article follows. Note that there were additional versions of Logo introduced later, most notably The Byte Works 3D Logo and LCSI Logo Writer. Please see my KansasFest 2011 presentation for photographs and discussion.
“Sprite Logo” stands out in this list due to the price. It’s 3 times more expensive ($299 vs. $100 MSRP) than any other version. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore Sprite Logo, why it’s so expensive, and what’s unique.
|Name||MSRP (USD) in Dec. 1984||Notes|
|Apple Logo (from LCSI)||$100||DOS 3.3 based. Apple adopted and distributed LCSI Logo. Includes excellent documentation, including “Introduction to Programming through Turtle Graphics” by Cynthia Solomon.|
|Apple Logo II (from LCSI)||$100||This is an updated, ProDOS based, 128KB version of the original Apple Logo.|
|Apple Sprite Logo (from LCSI)||$299||A variation of Apple Logo with a “sprite board” enabling “multiple dynamic turtle graphics.” This version was unpopular due to the price.|
|Terrapin Logo||$99 ($65 retail)||Based on MIT Logo. Terrapin offered multiple upgraded versions throughout the life of the product and a nice manual. Version 3.0 added 128KB support in 1985. See page 92 of “Creative Computing” (December 1984) for the retail price.|
|Krell Logo||$99 ($73.95 retail)||Based on MIT Logo. Included a poster, introductory “Alice in LogoLand” disk, and minimal documentation. Krell Logo did not receive updates during its lifespan. See page 95 of “Creative Computing” (December 1984) for the retail price. Note that page 95 contradicts page 106 and states the MSRP as $89.95.|
I joined the Mold Making class with the Central Oregon Makers last week. Before going, I had no idea how to make a mold or what I might use it for. Although 3D printing (“additive manufacturing”) gets most of the attention, mold making and casting seem like useful and versatile tools for duplicating and fabricating items. I could see using this technique to repair or replace small latches, wheels, key caps, housings, and decorative features where an original is available. For example, I’ve had trouble finding robot wheels I like, but now I can make my own.
It’s nice to have another tool in my toolbox, and I expect to invent problems just to use this tool.
Play-i is an interesting start-up using robotics to teach programming concepts to children as young as 5 years old. From the company’s marketing material, here’s the vision:
“In starting Play-i, we set out to create the product we want our children to have. Our mission to make computer programming accessible for every child is bigger than we are.
We need to re-think education. Students are becoming great at retaining facts, but there’s not enough focus on teaching them how to think. We are preparing our children… and your children for the future by inspiring curiosity and igniting a love for learning.”
Details on their system are a bit scarce, but I find their effort fascinating because:
- Play-i is designed for young children. Most commercial robots, even those advertised for education, are unsuitable for younger children. The robots require assembly, are relatively fragile, and have exposed electronics. Of course, older or more experienced folks might prefer these things, but the system seems to have sufficient capabilities for both beginner and more advanced learning.
- Programming is hands-on and eye-level. Many other robots require a desktop computer, cables, and software installation. In contrast, Play-i promises programming with a tablet while sitting on the floor next to the robot. Hopefully, this system will provide immediate feedback, gratification, and interaction. The robot will support several programming languages, which should allow the robot to grow and teach a wide variety of skills and ages. I think the success of the robot will depend on the supporting software, programming interfaces, and curriculum.
- The robots have “personalities” and names. The stories, colors, and shapes associated the robots seem to build an emotional relationship between humans and their robot pets, and I suspect that children will find this anthropomorphism appealing.
I do have some concerns but none ought to block their goals. Specifically, the hardware is closed and lacks a supported way to “hack the hardware.” There is an interface for add-ons, but the add-ons appear to be cosmetic or mechanical like an arm, handle, or cape. I think the closed hardware design is necessary for young children but might limit some types of exploration.
Play-i does promise a developer API, which will likely be key to building a rich, capable software infrastructure and curriculum around the physical robot. The robot appears to offer quite a bit of capability and flexibility with multiple programming interfaces, options for customization, a decent set of sensors, and a decent set of actuators.
At the moment, Play-i is raising funds with pre-orders for a production run in Summer 2014. I look forward to seeing their “delightful robots” on my floor.
The Living Computer Museum opened October 2012 in Seattle, WA. Unlike most museums that strive to preserve artifacts how they find them, usually broken and powered off, this museum keeps their machines alive. They’re in working condition, complete with the strangely beautiful sounds of teletypes, Disk ][ drives, paper tape, and raised-floor cooling. The museum is the vision of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Allen cut his teeth on PDP minicomputers, and the museum’s collection reflects this but has a growing display of personal computers. I know little about the PDP series and vintage of machine, but I found the museum irresistibly fascinating and essential for everybody interested in computers.
I visited the museum last year shortly after its opening, and you may read my full report in Juiced.GS (Volume 17, Issue 4). And, yes, I should’ve posted this a year ago, but I somehow left the post as a draft … in my defense, it’s only a single-bit memory error.
KansasFest came and went in a flurry of sleepless excitement. Among other things, we had a great keynote from Randy Wigginton, a surprise visit from Mr. Wozniak, and an Apple I. I particularly enjoyed seeing the amazing, creative, and unbelievable things people are doing with their Apple IIs.
Compared to today, computer networking in 1984 was heterogeneous, and compatibility between two systems from different vendors was unlikely. Every vendor developed their own proprietary and incompatible solution to networking, including file sharing and print sharing. Apple joined the foray with AppleTalk, a low cost and easy to operate networking system, with an announcement in 1984 and a release in 1985. Initially, AppleTalk supported the Macintosh. Soon, the Apple IIgs and the Apple Workstation Card brought AppleTalk to the Apple II line. AppleTalk remained Apple’s answer to networking for about 10 years, and support for parts of AppleTalk persisted in OSX until 2009.
One of the advantages of traveling is finding the “best of the best” and not being restricted to one city. Of course, it’s never easy finding the best stuff and having it match my travel schedule. Yesterday, I attended the “Drawing the Electric Synth with Sam Jacoby from MIT” class at SparkFun Electronics in Boulder, CO. I’m not terribly interested in electronic music, but why not give it a try …
… and, I had a blast. Sam proved to be an excellent and knowledgeable instructor with a clever and fascinating ideas. In the morning, he walked us through making speakers from bits of wire, paper, glue, and magnets – a great project for building hands-on skills and showing how it’s possible to build your own technology with a tiny bit of knowledge. Most of us just buy completed speakers or headphone and treat them as black-boxes, never to be disassembled or questioned. Sam showed us that speakers are simple technology well within the grasp of anybody. In the afternoon, we built the “electric synth.” The exercise was less about the music than about creative use of conductive inks to draw circuits and embed microcontrollers. I “colored outside the lines” and made my synth into a pyramid with the speaker on a paper spring. This construction technique, while imperfect since the inks tend to be difficult to place precisely and can be brittle, is powerfully simple. Anybody who can draw a line can build a circuit and harness technology in interesting, interactive, artistic ways.
Thanks to Sam Jacoby and the SparkFun staff for a good day.