Another ~1960 computer kit

From: D. Peschel <>
Date: Sat Dec 19 12:53:47 1998

> Hmmm... From what I've seen of the Mindstorms set available in the UK,
> it's not that great. What really annoys me is that it'll do a lot more
> than they tell you about in the instructions (based on the stuff I've
> read on the web). And I _HATE_ products like that.

I've never used them (or seen the Web page). However, there is hope.
In the thread about Xerox and Smalltalk, I think someone (Hans P.?)
mentioned Squeak. (I'm not going to check my archives now, since my
compiler is due in a couple of hours and the final exam comes right
after that!) Squeak is a free version of Smalltalk, very faithful to
the original Xerox plan, with full source. (It was written at Apple in
an apparemtn momemt of generosity -- I wish the Mac weren't such a closed
platform to get a compiler for.)

What does this have to do with Lego Mindstorms? Well, someone is working on
a Smalltalk interface to Lego Mindstorms! (Unless my brain is fried, that
is.) I forget if it requires a commercial Smalltalk, but I suspect people
are interested in porting it to Squeak. I couldn't find the details -- the
articles seem to have expired. And I'm not going through my files (see
above -- anyway they're at home and I'm not). But this is a very good sign
for education.

Besides, I really like Squeak. I hated VisualWorks (an expanded, refined
descendant of the original Xerox Smalltalk) when I used it in class. But
Squeak is a lot more manageable, and it helps to be able to tinker instead
of worrying about doing homework.

I really wish someone would write an Alto or other Xerox workstation
simulator, but until then, Squeak may be the best approximation to using an
Alto. It really doesn't come close though. (It has color and much more
processing power; it lacks the underlying Xerox Executive; and there's no
5-key set!)

> There is the secondary issue with the Mindstorms kit that I don't like
> things that are tied to PCs, but that's another matter.

If the interface is ported to Squeak, you should be able to use your UNIX
machine or whatever else you can manage.

> I'll not be getting one - I gave away my lego years ago. Now,
> Fischertechnik and Meccano (roughly the UK version of the Errector Set, I
> think) are 2 'toys' that I've kept, and I don't mind admitting I still
> use them...

Have you built a differential analyzer yet?

-- Derek
Received on Sat Dec 19 1998 - 12:53:47 GMT

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