The MIT isn’t the only university that’s putting free course materials on the web, the Dutch Open University is doing the same. One of the courses they have published so far is an introduction to (Java) programming. Java isn’t the easiest language to start programming in when you’re a complete newbie, but the designers of this course have taken an interesting approach. From this course’ website you can download a JavaLogo.jar file that contains some classes that allow you to code in a LOGO kind of way. The most famous feature of LOGO is it’s “turtle graphics”. Take a line of code like this one:
REPEAT 4 [FD 100 LT 90]
This LOGO program draws a simple square with sides of 100 units long: FD is short for Forward and LT stands for Left. In LOGO you basically control a “turtle” on screen leaving a trail when moving.
LOGO is a great introduction to programming because it gently introduces basic programming concepts like procedures and recursion. It’s very easy and a lot of fun to create interesting patterns such as all kinds of spirolaterals and fractals. With JavaLogo you can write web-enabled programs in a similar way in Java. I’ve been playing around with it and created this applet in a few lines of code that shows the Sierpinski triangle.