These are email messages I've received from ToonTalk beta testers. [My comments in square brackets.] Endorsements by users, teachers, and researchers can be found here.
ToonTalk is a great program. I think it is a great accomplishment. It is a good interface for kids. Personally I loved it. Will the help guy talk? I hope so. [Marty talks now.] I made a few robots myself. I think the mouse that adds the numbers is cute. Tooly is very handy and the help guy is very helpful. (I hope he talks). The demos are good and I think it is great that you tell people where they can find demos. I hope your program is very successful. There is one thing I noticed; when you have it on full screen mode once in a while it will crash and give an error. Not very often. [Even less often 2 years later.] The best of luck to you!!
Richie [12 year old from Rochester New York]
This is from Bob (father) and Tom (son, age 9).
The following is very early feedback, we have only had the program for 23 days; we'll send more later. Overall, though, we think it is a very impressively powerful yet likeable program. Tom treats it as if it is alive.
I liked the program, I like to train robots to do stuff for me. I also like the way you can suck up Pumpy the bike pump and the magic wand, but I think you should be able to suck up Tooly the toolbox. I like the way you can blow up houses too. But Marty can get pretty annoying coming in your face going "Bla bla bla," for every single mistake you make. I think once you press F1 to get him away, he should go away for good, and once you press F1to get him back he can go "Bla bla bla," in your face for every single mistake you make.
Thanks for the program,
Tom and Bob
Since a week, 10 persons (from 6 years old to 40) test your ToonTalk.
First comments from testers: - It's nice (9 persons) - Fun, I wish it for me (my daughter 6) - The mouse with a hammer is a great idea (5-6 persons) -
First (strange) axiom: More you know C++, less you understand ToonTalk (because you wish find the same concepts inside) Second axiom: Less you know computer science, more you understand ToonTalk
It a good thing and a great idea but if you know a programming language (Basic, C or Pascal), you have problems to understand the basics of ToonTalk. Perhaps, the TT concept is not for will-engineers...
Excuse me for my bad English.
Patrik [an engineer in France]
What a great concept, this toontalk. I have a nearly 5 year old, and together we try to learn this thing. The graphics are fantastic. He enjoys them!! It would indeed be helpful for the ones of his age to have the Martian talk as you are planning to do. I would love to promote the finished program at primary schools here in New Zealand.
Keep up the good work!
Jim & Sietske
Dear Mr. Ken,
This is from Caryn in Mrs. Colton's Class at Encinal School. You made me a copy of the computer disk game - ToonTalk. It did not work because I have a Macintosh IIcx Computer. The disk you gave me were for a PC. [I'm waiting to see if there is enough interest to make a Mac version.]
I think this game is very cool and I was VERY disappointed it did not work. I was wondering can you make a copy of this for Macintosh? Can you E-Mail it to me? I don't know if one can do that with games...
I have been using Toontalk with 5th graders in a Saturday morning program and they LOVE it. We have two groups who use it for about 75 minutes each. They enjoyed the puzzles but had a hard time getting a number larger than a billion. Once they used dusty it worked out ok. They enjoyed the free play and quickly learned to make houses and blow them up.
I think ToonTalk is a great game, except a few things. Let's say a kid was playing the game and his dad or mom didn't know anything about computers they would probably be confused. You probably already know this - you [need] to include a manual. [It does now.] That is about it everything else is OK.
Alex [4th grader]
After one day's look, I really wish that you had this thing on Mac. I let the kids play on the Mac but it looks really great. You have done a pretty fabulous job. It took a little while to get the hang of things, but I think that I can probably get my son doing a couple pretty simple programs when I get back.
[Here is some of the email I received after giving a BayCHI (Bay Area Computer Human Interface) talk in August 1997.]
Your presentation at BayCHI last night was the most exciting computer application I've seen in quite a while! I have a longstanding interest in educational uses of computers, and I would be very interested in receiving a beta copy of your software. While I am not currently teaching any classes, I would be interested providing feedback and maybe developing some demonstration programs.
I really liked your talk on Toontalk last night. It was one of the niftier pieces of software I have seen in a long time.
How can I get a copy of the beta for it?
Also, when *are* you going to have a Mac version?
I saw your talk last night, and I was very impressed. I'd like to get the Beta release for several reasons:
* I believe programming through recording is the key to easier programming, and have been involved in several projects at Apple that used recording, most notably AppleScript.
* I have an 11 year old girl living in my house
* I am a professional programmer, interested in doing work like yours, or possibly working with you some day.
I am excited about the chance to show it to my housemates and coworkers.
I just saw your presentation at BayCHI last night and would like to beta test ToonTalk. I was very impressed with the power of the programming model you are providing to kids.
I saw a quick demo of ToonTalk in my Human-Computer Interface class today and was VERY impressed. I was wondering if you'd let me test it, mostly just because I found it so fascinating (involving?) I'd like to see how far I can take the language, and how large a program I could construct with it.
Thanks for listening,
Dear Dr. Kahn;
I feel I must thank you for allowing me the privilege of being able to beta-test TOONTALK for you. I enjoyed TOONTALK and I feel it has great potential, especially for younger people. I apologize for not sending you more information regarding TOONTALK than I did, but I hope others were more helpful. I am only 16 years old, and with school, chores, and a constant search for employment, I found I lacked sufficient time to fully test TOONTALK.
Thanks for having made the beta 5B available to me. I should like to insist heavily on this: the concept is wonderful, original, and its design reaches (already) a high quality level. Very nice soft!
With the following remarks, I hope at least to encourage you, at most to bring some help.
- This is one of the nicest things I ever saw for children on a computer.
- Languages: how many languages are supported? Is French supported? (this is not important for adults, but is a concern for children!) [ToonTalk currently supports English (both US and UK variants), Portuguese (both European and Brazilian), Japanese and Swedish. I'd love to see it translated to other languages as well.]
Marc [from Belgium]
My 5-year-old son has been using ToonTalk. It provides him and his 4-year-old brother with entertainment. He is able to program robots to do various simple things, like add numbers, concatenate strings, or build different (fixed) data structures. (I'm proud--my son has written his first computer program!) He often just plays by moving things around, duplicating them with the wand, or vacuuming them up.
He quickly learned the concepts of applying an operation (by putting something on top of something else) and making a robot think about something. He also understands the in-parameter concept of leaving a box empty in the robot's mind, that is, sucking up the contents of a box that the robot is thinking of.
I would love to beta-test your program. I'm a 25-year-old market research assistant (by accident). I would much rather be a PC game designer, but I've never made it past the "now let's program a spreadsheet" portion of any programming course. My job is boring and my plans are big. May I?
[Another message from Katherine]
You want feedback? Here it comes!
I love it! My husband is a programmer, so between his input and your amazing interface, I'm just soaking it up.
[Another message from Katherine]
I'm enchanted with this program. I've always wanted to write code, but I've had an impenetrable mental block against some of the concepts.
Thanks a bunch for allowing me to play with ToonTalk. I have always learned by playing, and this is right up my alley. And to think I was going to waste years & $$ studying CogSci. :)
[Another message from Katherine]
This is Katherine, a long lost beta-tester. I just wanted to let you know that ToonTalk did wonders for my ability to understand programming. I really wasn't sure any of the fun I had with your program would translate into applicable skills, but you surprised me! I'm still only a novice, but I'm learning C at twice the rate I expected. Previous attempts at self-teaching a programming language were dismal failures, as I didn't have a "feel" for the fundamentals. I've got that "feel" now. I never thought I'd say "programming is fun" but... programming is fun.
Thanks a lot for giving me the opportunity to participate in the beta-testing. I wish you all the success in the world with ToonTalk, you certainly deserve it.
Well I like toontalk, It is cool. The system is easy to use, I wish that there was more system like this. It is fun. I have no complaints, I have some ideas for toontalk.
You should be able to shrink the tools into a little window, and when you want them you double click on them and they appear again, Or you push may be f3 and dusty pops up, and f4 the magic wand appears, etc.. [Many of these things are now possible.] This is a very fun system and I can learn how to program with it. Thanks for making it.
Matthew [14 years old]
Yesterday I finally took the plunge and made ToonTalk available to my 7 year old son Benji, who seems to takes a great interest in new software technology. Being quite computer-savvy, he's stumbled across ToonTalk before on his own in his rummaging around the computer -- I once found him in the "Play Game" mode.
But I've been reluctant to introduce my kids officially until I had played around with it enough to be able to offer them sufficient guidance; this is probably just me being overly conservative, as Ben has been clamoring off-and-on for access to the game ever since running across it, claiming that he already knows how to work it! And indeed, yesterday we had a very fun hour exploring, experimenting, and learning together.
We trained a few very simple robots and saved them in the notebook; he even trained one all by himself, while I was absent for a while, to recite the alphabet (and this was his idea). Actually, he taught the robot to recite "A - B - C - D" by bamming the number 1 onto successive letters three times, and then I showed him how to generalize the robot's input state by erasing the initial letter in his thought bubble, so he could just continue working forever ... but still, Ben readily "gets" this programming-by-example idea, and he's quite excited by the notion that he's *programming*.
I've already introduced him to trucks and birds, too. His basic comment, stated repeatedly, is that "This is cool!" ("Pap, you know what game I want to play when I come home from music camp today!"). His sister Monica, to turn 10 in September, watched the latter part of his play yesterday and wants her turn to be next (I haven't yet spent any one-on-one time with her).
When I explained to the kids that this is a beta version of a program under construction, with expiration dates, Ben got concerned, expressing his hope that we could get the next update and that his work could be saved from one release to the next (which I reassured him it could). So, please send us the new password when you can!
Thanks a lot, and keep up the neat work.
Great program, we have seen many "Development environments" for children but this is the best. As a programmer, I especially like the way you have encapsulated the normal computer science structures and not as too many of the other programs for kids, tried to avoid them with some strange way of working. When this, kids start looking at the other languages they will feel at home.
Great program and keep up the good work
Per and Ulla
I have an 8-year-old son who is very bright (isn't everyone's child?). I have tried to get him interested in Logo, but no luck so far.I am downloading both the 16-bit and 32-bit files, and eagerly await the password.
[Another message from Patrick]
Although I would rather be playing with ToonTalk, I thought I should stop and give you first impressions. I saw the program for the first time today.
Congratulations! I think you are on to something great here. I can see you have put hundreds (probably thousands) of hours into the program. I am very anxious to spend some time on it.
This is a really awesome environment! THANKS!
First, it's just what I remembered. Looks great. The Fibonacci demo made my jaw drop as I figured out what it was trying to do.
In any case, I just spent several very enjoyable hours with an adult friend of mine who is an expert programmer, and his kids and my kids. Your combination of demos and interactive games, and the ability to 'take over' provided all the right tools for the variety of ability levels each of us had to enjoy, learn, and cheer all night.
Thanks, and goodnight!
We are on the eve of a new millenium and I believe that it will be known as the age of information. Today and in the future, information is and will be collected, stored, organized and processed with computers that need appropriate programs to fulfill their tasks and help us make life better for everyone. And just because information computing is the keyhole to the next millenium, it's even more important for our children to come into contact with this technology as early as possible. ToonTalk is the key that allows them to open the door into this new age, because it's teaching our children, the generation of tomorrow, not to remain passive and consuming in the world of information. On the contrary it allows them to become active, to participate in the collecting, storing, organizing and processing of information with computers, because it introduces children into the secrets of abstraction, problem solving and algorithmic thinking in a child-friendly, vivid way. They won't write Word the day after having worked with ToonTalk, but they will be able to write the software of tomorrow.
That's it so far, and many greetings from Heilbronn (Germany),
I'm really enjoying playing this like I didn't since last November or so. Genuinely interesting. A hallmark of a terrific game. And a huge compliment from me, since I like so few of them now. And I have enough experience testing, writing, and playing online games that I know the tremendous creative effort that goes into a game that's _interesting_.... I said when you sent the first CD that I understood that this was a saleable product for the first time, now after hearing the robot voice, I can see that you shouldn't have trouble selling it.
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