Nand To Tetris is an amazing free online course that takes you from the simple Nand gate and shows you how to build up the hardware and software infrastructure needed for writing and running high level programs. Last year I decided to go through the course and make VR versions of projects at different levels of computing abstraction as a possible source of inspiration for designing a spatial programming system.
While I did make a few prototypes like a hardware logic simulator, cpu emulator, and a high level simplified turtle graphics system (the last two at the wonderful Recurse Center), one of the things I ended up learning the most from was the game Turing Complete.
Turing Complete covers the first half of Nand To Tetris in game form. Playing the game really helped me learn about the lower levels of computing, but perhaps more importantly reinforced the idea that an interactive and visual environment can make “programming” a lot more fun and engaging.
This year I’m planning to follow in the footsteps of Turing Complete and create a VR version of turtle graphics that’s polished enough to put in the Oculus app store. The Apple II marked a new era of computing with the rise of the personal computer and turtle graphics was the first introduction to programming for many in that generation. Virtual reality might be having its Apple II moment with the Oculus Quest 2 so wouldn’t it be cool for a new generation to be introduced to the magic of computation in a similar way?