Fundamentals of Computer Science I: Media Computing (CS151.01 2008S)

Turtle Graphics


Summary: We explore DrFu's implementation of Turtle Graphics, a model of graphics based on turtles that draw.

Introduction

As you might expect, there are a wide variety of models for describing images algorithmically. One of the more interesting models is typically called turtle graphics, and is based on a fairly simple and intuitive model of drawing: All drawing is done by a robotic turtle that can move forward and turn. The turtle also has a collection of pens that it use to draw with. (Alternately, it has a magic pen which can change colors and tips.)

The turtle graphics model is popular for a number of reasons. One important reason is that it is simple: At the core, turtle graphics only requires four operations: moving the turtle forward, turning the turtle, lifting the pen up, and putting the pen down. (Often, turtle graphics implementations provide additional features, but these suffice.) Given these few operations, plus a few additional control structures, it is possible to draw a wide variety of interesting images. Many programmers and designers also appreciate the challenge of seeing what they can do with these simple operations.

Another reason that turtle graphics is popular is that it is relatively easy to implement in the physical world. Particularly with the advent of easy-to-construct robotics kits, such as Lego Mindstorms, “anyone” can build a robot that draws. (In most cases, the unpredictability of the physical world means that drawings with physical turtles have an interesting imperfection as compared to those from their digital counterparts.)

Turtle graphics is also popular because it was a core component of Logo, one of the most important languages created for novice programmers. Logo, designed by Seymour Papert at MIT, was intended as an environment in which children could learn to think about algorithms and programming. It was surprisingly successful, enough so that Logo is still used in some contexts, a few decades after it was first created.

DrFu's Turtle Graphics Procedures

DrFu provides a somewhat larger group of turtle graphics procedures. In part, this is because DrFu permits you to have more than one turtle. (Multiple turtles can be useful when you want to draw overlapping diagrams.)

There are two ways to create a turtle. The most straightforward is (turtle-new imageid), which creates a new turtle associated with a particular image. You will, of course, need to name that turtle.

> (define tommy (turtle-new canvas))

One can also clone an existing turtle with (turtle-clone turtle). Once again, you should name that clone.

> (define tommy2 (turtle-clone tommy))

One can, of course, tell turtles to do the four core turtle operations.

  • (turtle-forward! turtle amt) advances the turtle the specified amount.
  • (turtle-turn! turtle degrees) turns the turtle clockwise the specified number of degrees.
  • (turtle-up! turtle) lifts the turtle's pen.
  • (turtle-down! turtle) drops the turtle's pen.

With these procedures, we can draw squares, equilateral triangles, and much more. See if you can figure out what each of these sequences of instructions do.

; Drawing One
(turtle-forward! tommy 100)
(turtle-turn! tommy 90)
(turtle-forward! tommy 100)
(turtle-turn! tommy 90)
(turtle-forward! tommy 100)
(turtle-turn! tommy 90)
(turtle-forward! tommy 100)
: Drawing Two
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)
(turtle-turn! tommy 120)
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)
(turtle-turn! tommy 120)
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)
; Drawing Three
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)
(turtle-turn! tommy 144)
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)
(turtle-turn! tommy 144)
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)
(turtle-turn! tommy 144)
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)
(turtle-turn! tommy 144)
(turtle-forward! tommy 50)

It is possible to draw a wide range of fascinating images without every changing the color or brush shape the turtle uses. However, we can have even more fun if we are able to change those values. The following procedures allow us to update the pen. Both procedures take similar parameters to context-set-fgcolor! and context-set-brush!, respectively.

  • (turtle-set-color! turtle color) sets the color of the brush the turtle uses.
  • (turtle-set-brush! turtle brush) sets the brush the turtle uses.

In an ideal world, either (a) the programmer knows the position and direction of the turtle or (b) the programmer can write programs that are independent of the initial position and direction. However, practice and experimentation often benefit from the ability to move the turtle to a particular position and orient it in a particular direction. DrFu provide two “hacks” that let you place and orient the turtle precisely.

  • (turtle-teleport! turtle column row) moves the turtle to a particular column and row.
  • (turtle-face! turtle degrees) makes the turtle face a direction the specified number of degrees clockwise from right.

Repeating Commands

As you may have noted in our initial, English-language, discussions of turtle graphics, turtle-graphics algorithms benefit from the ability to repeat commands. For example, we might draw a square by repeating the the following commands four times.

(turtle-forward! tommy 40)
(turtle-turn! tommy 90)

Many turtle-based drawing systems, such as the Logo language, introduce a special notation for turtle repetition. In the DrFu library, however, we leave repetition to standard Scheme control mechanisms. Hence, in your initial explorations of turtle graphics, you must be a bit more creative in how you repeat commands. There are at least two options: You can copy and paste code. For example, if we copy and paste those two lines four times, we have instructions for drawing a square. We can also put the drawing instructions in the definitions pane and repeatedly hit Run. We'll play a bit with both options in the lab.

Turtle Values

In the past, you've seen that brushes are represented by strings and images are represented by integers. How are turtles represented? In the current version of DrFu, turtles are procedures.

> (turtle-new world)
<procedure>

What does that mean? It means the designers of DrFu wanted to make the implementation of turtles a bit obscure. The main outcome is that you cannot type turtles in directly. Rather, you must create them with turtle-new or turtle-clone.

The technique of hiding the underlying details of a data type is part of a strategy called encapsulation. Provided that the designer of the data type includes sufficiently many procedures for working with the data (e.g., the various procedures we've provided for turtles), it should not matter to the client programmer how the data type is implemented. Among other things, encapsulation allows the designer to change underlying representation. It turns out that encapsulation gives benefits to client programmers, too. In particular, they need not worry about particular details, just about the procedures provided.

In fact, even when you know the underlying implementation (which you will for some data types we'll develop over the next few weeks), it is still appropriate to use the procedures that are designed for manipulating the object, for both of those reasons. That is, by using those procedures, you allow yourself or someone else to change the underlying representation, and, as importantly, you focus more on how you're using the data than on how it's represented.

Creative Commons License

Samuel A. Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu

Copyright (c) 2007-8 Janet Davis, Matthew Kluber, and Samuel A. Rebelsky. (Selected materials copyright by John David Stone and Henry Walker and used by permission.)

This material is based upon work partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CCLI-0633090. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.