Learning & Computing

Gallery under construction, of course! 😉

Learning & Computing Gallery, New Computer Museum v. 1.5

Learning & Computing Gallery, New Computer Museum v. 1.5

The Learning and Computing Exhibit is about the community of people who pioneered the exploration of the intersections of computational media and the human mind. In many ways the roots of this exhibit are also the roots of the entire New Computer Museum because the initial collection began as an extension of Mary Hopper’s academic work in a cluster of related areas. More specifically, many of her experiences and the collection supporting those experiences were a direct result of her work with Robert Lawler. This exhibit is really best understood as a celebration of Lawler’s and his colleagues’ groundbreaking journeys into the intersection of mind and computation.

Robert Lawler

Bob Lawler, floruit 1980

Bob Lawler, floruit 1980

Robert Lawler is a key adviser and donor to the New Computer Museum, and he lends insights that are based upon a fascinating career that led him to work at some of the most technologically advanced centers in the world and given him the opportunity to work with some of the most interesting people in those places. He entered computing as a Systems Engineer with IBM in 1960, and then later on he was a researcher at the MIT AI Lab, in Le Centre Mondial pour l’Informatiques (Paris), GTE’s Fundamental Research Labs, the National Research Council, and at Purdue University. He has also been a consulting contractor for Apple’s Advanced Technology Group and for the Leadership Development Research Unit of the Army’s Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. He has worked in business, government, and academia, both in US and in Europe, and keynoted conferences in the US, Europe, and Asia.

Now a Purdue Professor Emeritus, he has also held visiting positions at MIT, Harvard, Exeter (UK), UNESCO (Paris), Geneva (CH): and at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman. He has written popular, technical and scholarly articles (Creative Computing, BYTE, Journal of Mathematical Behavior); he edited with M. Yazdani two Volumes on Artificial Intelligence and Education, has written two analytical studies: Cognition and Computers (with chapters by others) and Computer Experience and Cognitive Development. With Kathleen M. Carley, he wrote Case Study & Computing.

Lawler is currently bringing public the Natural Learning Case Study Archives (NLCSA). This is a cumulative and culminating work that incorporates all of his prior work into a single system with simple facilities permitting collaborative use of these archives by other analysts through the internet.

This is the central image for how I look at the only way to make sense of life: you start where you are; you record and remember; you select important events / stories; you represent them as best you can; you propose explanations for what you observe. Since the result is inadequate, you start again, remembering what you have learned (if you have learned anything) from the previous failure…. –Robert W. Lawler, 2015


Natural Learning Case Study Archives: Research Process

Here are the three books that Lawler wrote about his studies of his three children, and they are linked to the text of those books on his Natural Learning Case Study Archives site.
WebcoverRob1 WebcoverMrm1 LearningWithComputers

Related sites
Learning and Computing: A Collection of Papers About Education, Computing, Psychology and Artificial Intelligence (Robert W. Lawler)
Natural Learning Case Study Archives, v 0.8 (Robert W. Lawler)

Colleagues @ Purdue

Over the course of the 1988-1989 academic year, Lawler invited some of his closest colleagues out to Purdue University to give a series of lectures, and he has posted those online as part of the NLCSA corpus. One potential series of events that could be hosted by the New Computer Museum would be showings of these videos accompanied by panel conversations. Because of Mary Hopper’s work with Robert Lawler over the years, The New Computer Museum also has collections of materials related to these three historic figures.

Oliver Selfridge

07 OGS.0411

Oliver Selfridge was a British-born pioneer of Artificial Intelligence. In a 1958 paper, Pandemonium: a Paradigm for Learning, he outlined a neurologically inspired system of electronic machine components, which he called “demons”, that reacted to common elements in each other. A decade later two fellow mathematicians summarized his ideas as leading to an “Oliver” (an “Online Interactive Vicarious Expediter and Responder”), which was a computerized personal assistant. Such a machine, Selfridge explained, would infer what he wanted it to do from what it had learned when working with him. –Telegraph, 2008

Video: Oliver Selfridge @ Purdue (1989)

Related sites
Oliver Selfridge (Wikipedia)
Pandemonium architecture (Wikipedia)

Oliver Selfridge (The Telegraph, December 2008)
Oliver Selfridge, an Early Innovator in Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 82 (John Markoff, New York Times)

Marvin Minsky

05 minskyAtHome

Marvin Minsky made many contributions to AI, cognitive psychology, mathematics, computational linguistics, robotics, and optics. In his later years he worked chiefly on imparting to machines the human capacity for commonsense reasoning. His conception of human intellectual structure and function is presented in two books: The Emotion Machine and The Society of Mind (which is also the title of the course he teaches at MIT). He received the BA and PhD in mathematics at Harvard (1950) and Princeton (1954). In 1951 he built the SNARC, the first neural network simulator. His other inventions include mechanical arms, hands and other robotic devices, the Confocal Scanning Microscope, the “Muse” synthesizer for musical variations (with E. Fredkin), and one of the first LOGO “turtles”. He received the ACM Turing Award, the MIT Killian Award, the Japan Prize, the IJCAI Research Excellence Award, the Rank Prize and the Robert Wood Prize for Optoelectronics, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal. –Media Lab, 2015

Video: Marvin Minsky @ Purdue (1988)

Related sites
Marvin Minsky (Media Lab)
Society of Mind (Marvin Minsky)
Marvin Minsky (Wikipedia)

Seymour Papert

Dr. Seymour Papert is a mathematician and one of the early pioneers of Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, he is internationally recognized as the seminal thinker about ways in which computers can change learning. Born and educated in South Africa where he participated actively in the anti-apartheid movement, Dr. Papert pursued mathematical research at Cambridge University from 1954-1958. He then worked with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva from 1958-1963. It was this collaboration that led him to consider using mathematics in the service of understanding how children can learn. Then in the early 1960’s, Papert went to MIT where, along with Marvin Minsky, he founded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-authored their seminal work, Perceptrons (1970). He is also the author of Mindstorms: Children Computers and Powerful Ideas (1980) and The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer (1992). –Media Lab, 2015

Seymour Papert & Senegalese Colleagues (photo by Robert Mohl, ©~1982)

Seymour Papert & Senegalese Colleagues (photo by Robert Mohl, ©~1982)


Video: Seymour Papert @ Purdue (1988)

Thinking about Thinking about Seymour (MIT Memorial Event)

Here are two videos capture just some of what Nicholas Negroponte and Alan Kay said during Thinking about Thinking about Seymour on January 26, 2017.

Related sites
The Gears of My Childhood (Seymour Papert)
Essay published as foreword to Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Basic Books, 1980)
Mindstorms (Seymour Papert, 1980)

The Learning Barn (S. Papert)
Seymour Papert (Papert.org)
Seymour Papert (MIT Media Lab)
Seymour Papert (Wikipedia)

Logo & Relatives


The Logo programming environments are rooted in constructivist educational philosophy, and are designed to support constructive learning. Constructivism views knowledge as being created by learners in their own minds through interaction with other people and the world around them. This theory is most closely associated with Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist, who spent decades studying and documenting the learning processes of young children. Then in the mid 1960s Seymour Papert, who had been working with Piaget in Geneva, worked with the team from Bolt, Beranek and Newman, led by Wallace Feurzeig, that created the first version of Logo in 1967. The Logo Programming Language, a dialect of Lisp, was designed as a tool for learning. Its features – modularity, extensibility, interactivity, and flexibility -follow from this goal. — Logo Foundation, 2014

Seymour invented the idea of Logo while working as a consultant to BBN Technologies on a project for the US Navy. Bolt, Beranek and Newman was a prototype University Science Park. The University was, MIT where Papert and Minsky jointly founded and ran the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The project run by Wally Feurzeig was a blue sky investigation into how to use “computers” to train naval personnel. Logo was a spin off. It was a computer language aimed at second grade students. Programming a computer to solve a problem was a way to exercise thinking (particularly mathematical thinking) – the first computer based brain gym. — The History of Turtle Robots (Dave Catlin)

Mary Hopper’s early work with Robert Lawler at Purdue University, then followed with her later work as a professor of Technology in Education at Lesley University led her to have an extensive collection, nearly complete and functioning collection of Logo and closely related educational robotics materials. All of these are part of the New Computer Museum’s Collection now.

Logo Related Exhibit at VCF East

Robert Lawler has also contributed a number of key Logo related systems to the collection as well. At this point it is almost certainly one of the more robust and operational collections of Logo materials in existence.


Dr. Bob proudly shows the functioning TI-99/4A he has loaned Digital Den. That day he also dropped of a functioning Apple IIe along with many TI-99 Sprite boards that make it possible to run Sprite Logo, two functioning TI-99/4A systems with a TI Logo cartridge and a Toshiba Home Computer HX 21 that runs a version of Japanese Logo.


Gary Stager & Cynthia Solomon @
Thinking about thinking about Seymour, January 26, 2017

There is still a vibrant community of Seymour Papert’s followers carrying on his work. Gary Stager and Cynthia Solomon are two of the most well known and active members. Cynthia was one of Seymour Papert’s earliest and closest collaborators, and Gary holds yearly events called Constructing Modern Knowledge.

Logo Things (Cynthia Solomon)
Logo Projects (Cynthia Solomon)
Cynthia Solomon (Wikipedia)
You should know Cynthia Solomon (Gary Stager)
Constructing Modern Knowledge (Gary Stager)

Related sites
Logo Foundation (Michael Temple)
Logo Tree Project (P. Boytchev)
The Design of Technological Tools for Thinking and Learning (Uri Wilensky)
Logo Memos

Turtle Academy Logo Emulator
JS Logo Logo Interpreter (Calormen)

TI Sprite LOGO & Word Worlds

When a TI-99 Sprite board was added to an Apple II, it essentially made it a TI-99. It also had a special TMS9918A video display processor (VDP) that allowed hardware to superimpose graphics over other video. An Apple II with a TI-99 Sprite board had 32 “sprites” that could each be controlled independently using Logo commands. The New Computer Museum has six of these boards that still work along with software, documentation and Lawler’s Word Worlds.

Apple IIe with TI-99 Sprite board running Lawler’s Word Worlds in TI Logo


LCSI Sprite Logo (New Computer Museum Exhibit at VCF East)

Related sites
Micro Worlds: Transforming Education (Seymour Papert)

Educational Robotics

The New Computer Museum already has a fairly robust collection and we will work with the Logo community to acquire, or in some cases even recreate, some of the other most important historical artifacts in the history of the quest in instantiate Seymour Papert’s ideas in physical objects often called “Turtles.”

Radia Perlman, a graduate student at the MIT Logo Lab in the mid-1970s, believed that the major impediments to children’s access to computer programming were not only the language syntax, but also the user interface. Perlman proceeded to design interfaces that would allow even pre-schoolers to learn to program a turtle. She came up with two novel input devices, informally called the Button Box and the Slot Machine. — From turtles to Tangible Programming Bricks: explorations in physical language design (Timothy S. McNerney)


The Valiant Roamer is a direct descendant of the Valiant Turtle which was designed by Dave Catlin in 1983 and was Valiant’s first product. You control a Turtle from a computer using the language Logo. The Valiant Turtle moved more accurately than any other educational robot of this type. This made it very good at drawing the geometric shapes characteristic of Logo. Papert called this powerful tool an “object to think with.” To create drawings students had to explore and manipulate geometric concepts. — The History of Turtle Robots (Roamer Robot Tumblr)

Valiant Roamer

The LEGO Company began sponsoring work at the MIT Media Lab in 1985. In 1988, LEGO introduced its first product (LEGO tc LOGO), based on the collaboration with the Media Lab. With this product (marketed only to schools), students could program the behavior of their LEGO constructions, but the constructions needed to be “tethered” to the computer via a cable. That same year, Media Lab researchers began developing the first programmable brick. In the early 1990s, LEGO opened a research lab in Cambridge, and LEGO traffic through the Media Lab increased. In 1998, LEGO launched the MindStorms construction kit. — LEGO’s MindStorms: An innovative robotic construction kit for children (MIT Media Lab)

In 1998, the LEGO Group revolutionized the world of popular and educational robotics with a pioneering concept: LEGO MINDSTORMS. Teachers immediately realized the power of this hands-on technology and curriculum in engaging and motivating students to learn science, technology, engineering, and math concepts while equipping them with the real-world knowledge and 21st century skills required to be successful in today’s global society. Millions of students and three generations of technology later, LEGO MINDSTORMS Education is a proven and enduring concept set to shape the next generation of creative problem. — Why Robotics? (Lego Education)


PICO Kit donated by Brian Silverman

Related sites
History of Turtle Robots (Roamer, 2014)
Radia Perlman – A pioneer of young children computer programming (Leonel Morgado, Maria Cruz and Ken Kahn)
From turtles to Tangible Programming Bricks: explorations in physical language design (Timothy S. McNerney)
Build with Chrome, Building Activity

Introduction to Educational Robotics Curriculum for Teachers (Mary Hopper)


New Computer Museum Educational Robotics Collection

Public Lab & Library

New Computer Museum Event Microsoft NERD Center, March 19

One of the primary goals of the New Computer Museum’s physical space would be to provide a public lab and library for use by educators.

The New Computer Museum already has a solid start on this. The collection includes over a hundred computers covering most major brands along with key peripherals such as drives and printers. There is a software library with all of the necessary operating system, utility and productivity software needed to retrieve almost any data created since the Apple II. There is also an extensive collection of documentation, magazines and books about general computer history, and a particular strength in the area of educational software and its history.


You can learn a lot more about the sources and evolution of the collection by checking out the far more extensive New Computer Museum History.

This is a very important part of the New Computer Museum’s mission, so there is an entire page in this guide devoted to the Public Lab.

2 comments on “Learning & Computing
  1. […] Learning & Computing […]

  2. […] Finally, the exhibit on this site has been freshly updated with the above resources and more. Check it out! Learning and Computing […]

Comments are closed.

Sponsor & Developer
Digital Den