One Hundred Things to Do with a Computer

In 1971 Seymour and I put together Twenty Things to Do with a Computer. We had just completed our second year long teaching experience. In the first year (1968-69) the students were seventh graders at Muzzey Jr. High in Lexington, MA. Instead of their regular math course we did computer math four days a week. We were given a classroom in which we put teletype terminals connected to a dedicated Logo time-shared computer (a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1) residing at Bolt, Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, MA. We were adventuring into Mathland. Our playful things were words and lists of words. The time was pre-turtle, and the lessons were important as they inspired Seymour to envision turtles as a necessary part of Mathland.

Yes folks, there was a direct link from Grey Walter’s tortoise to Papert’s turtle. At the MIT AI Lab which Seymour co-directed with Marvin Minsky development began on both a floor turtle and a display turtle. Seymour also encouraged other devices to be built such as a marionette machine.

In our second year long teaching experience (1970-71) the students were fifth graders at the Bridge School in Lexington, MA. We had two kinds of turtles, a floor turtle and a display turtle. We also had a four-voice music box. Desktop terminals were used for communicating with the time-shared DEC PDP-10 back at MIT. Furthermore, we were introducing a collection of circus arts as other kinds of procedural and recursive debugging experiences. We were juggling, bongo boarding, and stilt walking. As part of our environment were favorite books and games.We were expanding Mathland.

Now years later Gary Stager and I are amassing One Hundred Things to Do with a Computer. This is a collection stemming from work fostered by Seymour Papert and Marvin Minsky and built on research to enhance children’s intellectual, social, and physical development as well as research in artificial intelligence. We began to explore things to talk with and control.

Here we will focus on projects that teach machines to do things and teach us to do things. Some of these things require not only constructing ways to communicate but also constructing concrete objects with feedback and controls.

From the outset we thought in terms of creating or inventing projects in which a diversity of problems might arise spanning math, science, language, and the social sciences. The kinds of projects making up the original paper have not changed but have grown denser and come from many many people. On this round we offer up not only our own ideas but those that have been floated about by others over the years.
--Cynthia Solomon