In Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett, the following quote appears:

It was something he shared with tortoises. Watch any tortoise walking, and periodically it will stop while it files away the memories of the journey so far. Not for nothing, elsewhere in the multiverse, are the little traveling devices controlled by electric thinking-engines called “turtles.”

What are the "little travelling devices" referring to?

1 Answer 1


It's a reference to the use of Logo (a programming language) to control robots referred to as "turtles".

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  • 13
    Further to that (as someone who spent more time than I care to remember on my school's Beebs!)... It's worth mentioning that since the BBC was not a particularly fast machine, Logo was an interpreted language, and the comms link to the Turtle was pretty slow, you would always have a short delay when the Turtle completed one move and the system got itself set up for the next move.
    – Graham
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 22:31
  • 8
    This photo of Sir Terrence at work may help explain how all these computer references got into his fantasy world(s).
    – Pavel
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 7:23
  • 4
    I had always supposed it was a reference to turtle graphics, but this seems to fit better. Commented May 10, 2019 at 14:05
  • 2
    @JohnBollinger - The software "turtle" predated the physical turtle robot by only about a year. When someone refers to a logo turtle, they're not usually referring to the software that runs it, but the wheeled robot.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 14:19
  • 2
    It's turtles, all the way down... Commented May 11, 2019 at 3:40

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