Alice, the Turtle of the Modern Age

Many of us grew up with LOGO, the kid-friendly programming language that guided a little turtle around a screen. Yes, it was simplistic. Yes, it taught only the very basics of programming concepts, but it also inspired an entire generation of programmers. The applications you run every day were written by people who steered a digital turtle around a screen in third grade.

Alice is a project from Carnegie Mellon University that allows new programmers to use a drag-and-drop interface to create 3-D scenes and perform programmatic results without typing any code. The Alice Project has evolved through the years, and it's currently on version 3. The code is freely downloadable and is available for Linux, Mac and Windows.

(Image from http://www.alice.org)

Although the LOGO programming language allowed for some lengthy instructions for the turtle, it was limited. Alice, on the other hand, uses the animation environment to teach amazingly complex programming concepts. By utilizing an environment where syntax is dragged as opposed to typed, it takes "typos" out of the equation. It's hard to describe just how complex the programming can be with Alice, so I urge you to download it or at least visit the Alice Project at http://www.alice.org.

For doing its part in producing the next generation of programmers, while (at least in my mind) continuing the legacy of a small digital turtle from my youth, Alice gets this month's Editors' Choice Award.

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Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter