Hal Abelson, ‘Turtle Geometry’, 1969, Algorithm Auction
Hal Abelson, ‘Turtle Geometry’, 1969, Algorithm Auction
Hal Abelson, ‘Turtle Geometry’, 1969, Algorithm Auction
Hal Abelson, ‘Turtle Geometry’, 1969, Algorithm Auction

Last year, when Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to write a line of computer code, this was the algorithm. He typed a command in the '60s-era teaching language Logo, whose signal application was derived through “turtle graphics”—a system by which students could drive a robot.

On December 9, 2014, as part of Computer Science Education Week, President Obama visited a middle school in New Jersey and wrote this line of code: moveForward(100);.

In doing so, the president was not only acknowledging the essential place of computer science in American schools, but he was also paying homage to the early days of the academic discipline. This line of code comes from the computing commands in the language Logo, developed in the 1960s as a teaching tool for children. Logo’s best-remembered application was derived through “turtle graphics”—a system developed by MIT professor Hal Abelson in which students could either drive a simple robot or direct a cursor across a computer screen and draw graphic patterns. What sounds elementary today was, at the time, revolutionary. And it would become one of the most influential computing schemes of all time. It is no exaggeration to say that without Turtle Geometry, the world of technology education as we know it would be far different.

Read the technologist's statement.

This lot includes a signed commemorative printed rendering of one of the earliest known versions of the Turtle Geometry code on dot-matrix paper, signed by Hal Abelson. This lot also includes a commemorative 3D-printed Babylonian styled tablet containing the password to a private Github repository where the buyer may access an image of the lot. The tablet is in two parts with combined dimensions 6.9 x 3.4 x .76 in.

Please note: The buyer of this lot may not deduct any part of the purchase price as a charitable contribution. Access to Github is not guaranteed and is subject to Github's terms of service. This lot is not part of Smithsonian or Cooper Hewitt collections or property.

About Hal Abelson

In the world of computing, Hal Abelson is a legend: a much-honored educator and an activist for internet freedom. A professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department at MIT, Abelson is a co-author, with Gerald Sussman, of the classic course and textbook Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, which advances an analytical approach to programming language that has influenced computer science education worldwide. On a philosophical and political plane, Abelson has been a founder and director of such public interest groups as Creative Commons, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and the Free Software Foundation—organizations that work variously to promote progressive ideals such as the open dissemination of information on the internet, the personal privacy of Web users, and freedom of expression.