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July 9th, 2009

Doctor Who?

Congratulations to Bryan Talbot on being awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Sunderland.

From his fan site:

Bryan is being awarded an honorary doctorate for his “outstanding contribution to the Arts as writer and graphic artist” by Sunderland University. He says: "I've been saying that working on Alice in Sunderland was being like doing a Phd – not something I said lightly as my wife is a Phd and I saw first hand the sheer amount of work involved – it turns out now I was virtually doing one! The graphic novel did take a lot of time and one hell of a lot of research. I'm sure that the doctorate is mainly for producing this book, though they are going to cite the whole canon at the ceremony."

According to comic historian Paul Gravett, this is the first time that a doctorate has been given for work in the comic medium in the UK. Is this another sign of the increasing acceptance of comics as a legitimate art form, an art form that Bryan has relentlessly pioneered for over thirty years? The ceremony is on 17th July at the annual Sunderland University award ceremony at The Stadium of Light, Sunderland.

Having been one of the photographic sources for Alice in Sunderland (Bryan: "Can you guys just nip down to Guildford and photograph Lewis Carroll's grave..."), does this make us honorary research assistants?

Coding is fun again

It you've got an Xbox 360 and 400 Microsoft points (about £3.40), then run, don't walk, to the Community Channel and download Kodu.

Learning to program has never been so much fun - and the simple graphical programming environment lets kids of all ages build their own apps. I was programming seconds after downloading the code, and there's a whole world of functionality I've yet to explore

To be blunt: Kodu just rocks. It's educational programming done right for today's console generation. This is their BBC Micro.

Here's why:

Learning to program used to be easy. Turn on a BBC Micro and you'd be ready to write your first BASIC program, and Sinclair's machines had programming shortcuts printed on their plastic keys. Then there was Logo, with its simple approach that let beginner programmers build more and more complex behaviours for its turtle cursor.

But something went wrong along the way. Good old BASIC vanished, and along with it the fun of programming. It was work now, and that's the way it always would be. Kids would play games on consoles before growing up to write Visual Basic applications in the office. Programming was now officially boring.

A group of researchers at Microsoft Research had a different idea. People had experimented with visual programming techniques before (remember the keypad on the back of BigTrak?), and applications like Microsoft's Robotics Studio were mixing it with declarative programming concepts

Experiments like Popfly had shown there was interest in programming for what Microsoft's Jon Montgomery called the "non-programmer" – the person who puts a Facebook badge or a Yahoo! widget on their web page. However the Microsoft Research work went in a completely different direction, bringing visual programming to the world of gaming.

Read more at TechRadar.

Look - it's got a turtle!