Glimpses of the OZNAKI Project at
La Trobe 1975 - 84

OZNAKI Beginnings     Story in the Australian, 1975.
The OZNAKI Project at La Trobe University was in 1975 one of the very few computer projects anywhere directed at primary school students. In 1976 it became the first educational project world-wide using microcomputers. The very first microcomputer LOGO was developed at La Trobe University, as was ZONKY, the first Turtle robot in the Southern hemisphere.
Computers for the Handicapped

for the severely disabled speechless.

Technology Spin Offs
The first Australian PC, the MicroBee

To left: In 1982 handicapped nonvocal user with severe cerebal palsy operates prototype Talking Communicator plays speech output counting game. More
OZNAKI Key points
  • OZNAKI is Polish for "sign" or "logo"
  • Derived from MIT LOGO and from SMALLTALK.
  • Developed in Australia 1975+ by Dr Harvey Cohen who was a member of the MIT LOGO Group during 1974, and an academic visitor there 1978-9.
  • In schools in 1976 so was world first microcomputer (and pre-PC) based educational robotic system.
  • Single key commands inspired by Radia Perlman TORTIS
  • In OZNAKI graphic systems R (RIGHT) command caused screen robot to turn through 90 degree.
  • OZNAKI ground robot crude largely directed by young users to crawl through mazes.
  • Lead to 1982 project "Computer Communication Access and Programming by Severely Handicapped Non-vocal Students" that built a battery of Talking Communicators for handicapped students.
  • Trialed the use of Bliss Symbols for educational games for Down Syndrome students.
  • OZNAKI had effective simple algebra and iteration: 3F but also AF with command + incrementing A by 1
  • OZNAKI programs often used the command J (Jump Home maintaining heading)
  • OZNAKI evaluated both for Primary and Secondary students for enhancement of Spatial abilities.
  • OZNAKI provided concrete modelling for algebra and (unlike LOGO) no recursion.
  • Screen turtles navigated a grid leaving a trail of graphic characters
  • Lead to a project "Computer Graphics
  • OZNAKI system called OZLOGO was available 1983-88 for the Australian micromputer the MicroBee
  • For an annotated list of papers related to the establishment of the OzNaki Project, and to the Talking Communicator, click here
OZNAKI and BeeBot Key points
  • OZNAKI (1975-1985) featured screen Turtle robots that make 90 degree turns only as per               
  • OZNAKI ground robot ZONKY noisily turned ~30 deg units.
  • Bee-Bot (2013*) is concerned with ground Turtle robots that make noisy 90 degree turns only
  • OZNAKI ZONKY (ground) robot steered through mazes by young users/players
  • Bee-Bot ground robot steered from destination A to destination B on a checkerboard field.
  • OZNAKI featured microcomputer controller. The Bee-Bot is self-contained, stores instructions programs inside, programmable via buttons on the bot.
* Bee-Bot is subject of a US Patent application:
  • TORTIS = Toddlers Own Recursive Turtle System developed by Radia Perlman 1974+ at the MIT LOGO Group.
  • Button box controller allowed single key-stroke command
  • DO-It button terminated key-stroke string
OZNAKI and CUBETTO Key points
  • OZNAKI concerned with screen Turtle robots that make 90 degree turns only.
  • Cubetto concerned with ground Turtle robots that make 90 degree turns only
  • OZNAKI ZONKY (ground) robot steered through mazes by young users/players
  • Cubetto (little cube) ground robot steered from destination A to destination B on a checkerboard field.
TORTIS and CUBETTO Key points
  • Shaped coloured pieces placed in (shaped) slots in CUBETTO
  • Perlman proposed "slot machine" with cards to replace her button boxes so that a stack of cards would constitute a program.
For a comprehensive discusion see here.

A picture of Perlman's button Box in use is included in a discussion of the relationship of LOGO to OZNAKI and to Cubetto.

MIT Turtle used by Radia Perlman in 1974

Cubetto Turtle turns 90 degrees only

OZ-LOGO Turtle turns 90 degrees only
Zonky + Kathy Edwards + HAC 1976 Anti-maths syndrome under attack
In the very first OZNAKI Turtle the robot vehicle was the chassis of a toy tank. A hole drilled centre was for inserting a pen for track drawing. Note also the small siren horn.
During 1976 the ZONKY robot was refined, microprocessor sofware was developed, so that the very first microcomputer LOGO was implemented running on a Poly-88 micomputer.

ZONKY the first Turtle Robot constructed outside US/UK, could go F(orward), B(ack), R(ight), L(eft), while H(onking) and A(light), and sing a simple tune.

Click for the engineering details of the ZONKY robot

Click to read proclamation of the objectives of the Oznaki project, which were published late 1975 in the La Trobe University Record.
Cuisenaire Colours
Cuisenaire colour strip
were adopted for the OZNAKI Tiny Tot calculator:


Toddler operating  PLUSMINUS Toddler with PLUSMINUS keyboard attachedto computer
1975                                    PROGRAM VERSION
The PlusMinis modelled operation of addition (+) and subtraction (-) by adding/subtracting one from the number of lights on.
This toddler's calculator, with large + and - keys, featured row of 9 lights, each above a number 1 ..9. illuminated in Cuisenaire colours. The user is aged 20 months.
This electronic calculator was replaced by graphics program PLUSMINUS in 1977, where either a large two key pad was used, or speech input via a microphone. Computer was the Poly-88, with same "s-100" bus as the Altair. Speech Input was via a s-100 bus speech I/O board. See pix speech I/O
 ZONKY connected to Poly-88 Wizard Box Specialised Keyboard TV adapted as monitor
These web pages offers brief glimpses of the OZNAKI project. Three key papers on OZNAKI are downloadable as PDFs
Harvey A. Cohen, OZNAKI and Beyond, [U.S.] National Educational Computing Conference H.A. Cohen, OZNAKI and BEYOND, in D. Harris (Editor), Proceedings of National Education Computing Conference, NECC '79 The University of Iowa, Iowa, June 1979, pp 170-178.
Harvey A. Cohen and David G. Green, Evaluation of the Cognitive Goals of OZNAKI: Enhancement of Spatial Projective Abilities, in A.M. Wildberger and R. G. Montanelli, (Editors), "ACM Topics in Instructional Computing"' ACM Special Interest Group Computers in Education, SIGCUE, New York, 1978, pp 69-90
H.A. Cohen, Expanding the Child's Concept of Number, Space and Operation, in M. Poole (Editor), From Creativity to Curriculum, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1980, pp 147-162.

Click on small turtle to download the November 1975 newspaper story about the prototype version of ZONKY, based on model tank chassis. For the protype, a control program had been implemented in the early programming language ALGOL, and the robot was directed by serial ASCII commands coming from a the La Trobe University DEC-10 Computer. The robot shared the same (two wire) serial line with a terminal of the era, shown in the attached pix.
Key points of the story are:
Zonky adds up to fun
Michael Wilkinson
To be honest , Zonky is a show-off of the worst kind. He does whatever you ask, and does it perfectly - but always with some attention-seeking flourish.
. . . . Zonky looks like a super-duper toy tank. And he is, except he is the very latest in teaching aids. . . . . certainly not the sort of thing you expect in a getting to know maths lesson. After all, for years, learning maths seemed to to consist largely of excessive repetitions of multiplication tables, then, once these were grasped, abstract brain teasers about the values of "x" and "y".

The education philosophy expounded had been heavily influenced by six months spent by Dr Cohen in 1975 within the LOGO Group Project, of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. There he worked with Seymour Papert, author of the paper "Teaching Children to be Mathematicians versus Teaching them about Mathematics," International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology Volume 3, Issue 3, 1972, pp249-262. Downloadable for a fee. from the publisher.

The tantalising true history of the OZNAKI Turtle robot is that it was originally called Honky, and its toot was called a honk. Copies of the first newspaper report in the Australian of October 1975

were posted to the MIT LOGO group -- leading to the realization that Honky as a US Black racist expletive applied to white males. The robot was promply renamed ZONKY, even in the article in the Herald Sun (to right), which features a photo of an earlier incarnation of the model tank Turtle.
Newspaper article 1975   New Maths jingle all the way