Because of the problems I was having it getting support for CODIL I decided it would be useful to have a version which anyone could run on a computer in their home - to demonstrate that it really was user-friendly and really could handle a wide range of tasks - many of which were difficult to handle using conventional programming techniques. I selected the BBC computer, which was widely used in schools and as a home computer, and which had a "generous" total 25K bytes of memory to share between the screen display, user program, working data, disc buffers and stacks to handle recursion. A demonstration version, with limited file handling capability, was circulated for review starting at the end of 1986. No claim was made that the internal architecture was unconventional - the approach was simply - this is a working system - see what it can do.Nearly every copy sent out resulted in a favourable review, often with screen shots, etc, and extracts from the reviews are given below.
Reviews of MicroCodil
Published Reviews of MicroCODIL
Computers in Education Journal, January 1987
[MicroCODIL] provides easy access to many advanced information technology facilities ...
Gabriel Jacobs, The Micro User, February 1987
MicroCODIL .... is a language for micros designed to tackle the problems of intelligent interaction between human beings and machines. Whereas most languages require a regular structure in the data they access, MicroCODIL accepts and manipulates poorly defined information. ... [while] adding information which does not fit the original data structure can involve the Prolog user in extra logical rules, and a proliferation of nested brackets, the operation in MicroCODIL is trivial.
To help you along, MicroCODIL has been provided with a very comfortable user interface, with excellent use of colour coding and menus, and a well designed screen layout.
The 240 page instruction manual is aimed partly at plain folk, partly at the established computer fraternity. Generally speaking a reasonable balance has been achieved.
Keith Chandler, Network User, March/April 1987
MicroCODIL - Language of the Gods? [Title]
I have often dreamed of a data handling program which requires less structure, so that the data can be types in 'willy nilly' and then questions asked, leaving the computer to make sense of the data. MicroCODIL does just that.
[The disc ... ] included a music knowledge base with three tunes that played through the internal speaker. How many other database type programs can do that?
If, like me, you enjoy something that you can get your teeth into, I can thoroughly recommend it ... it is an excellent example of the type of application that our pupils should be exposed to.
Jonathan Evans, A & B Computing, April 1987
I was favourably impressed with MicroCODIL and feel that it should be considered seriously as an alternative to micro-prolog for teaching IKBS [Intelligent Knowledge Based Systems] principles to children .... there is much to be said for MicroCODIL with its superior user interface, more flexible reasoning mechanisms and supplied programs not to mention its lower price.
Another big advantage lies in the quality and quantity of the supplied [knowledge bases] which are interesting and useful in themselves as well as good illustrations of the flexible applications of the system.
Searching the kings and queens data base provides a simple example of good educational software. The user is actively involved and the process feels more like fun than learning.
The 'Body in the Bog' is enormous fun and is cleverly written at two different levels [MicroCODIL] actually develops alternative hypothesis about the identity of the body' for which it provides probability estimates which are updated at each inference.
Educational Computing, April 1987
Simple Power [title]
MicroCODIL provides the user with a knowledge based environment which contains all the tools that a novice needs to handle null and multiple values, ranges, approximate matching (both numeric and spelling errors), probabilities, fuzzy matching, etc. Such facilities are totally missing from most conventional computer languages and are often difficult to use in sophisticated research-based AI and expert system packages, which will only run on the most powerful computers.
Computers in Schools, May 1987
This package .,. bears much resemblance in approach to Prolog, but is a lot simpler for young people (and adults) to use.
The package is remarkably effective as a tool and as a demonstrator at secondary level.
The author must be congratulated on the impact and effectiveness of the software (which uses colour often and wisely) and on the excellence of the manual.
Mike Page, New Scientist, 24th September 1987 ONLINE
MicroCODIL is a software package designed to illustrate the features of "human" information processing. It attempts to overcome the explicitly mathematical formalities of other languages that are used for educational programming (such as BASIC or Prolog) through a simple, hierarchical structure that can be made complex through association and inference.
Many MicroCODIL features are easily accessible and clearly illustrated, while the potential for its use in schools is enormous.
Christopher Reynolds, the author states that it is important to teach children "about the functional capabilities of the kinds of computer systems they will encounter in adult life". The demonstration disc gives them a taste.
The full MicroCODIL language may turn out to be one of those few packages that allow students to take control of a computer, that also allow for a development of understanding in ways appropriate to individual abilities and interests, and that perform meaningful and worthwhile tasks.
Jill Phillips, Your Computer, October 1987
One of the advantages of investing your time and energy in a language like this is that you have the backup of someone who is enthusiastic and dedicated to it.
Leaving the computer to work ... gives you a feeling that real 'intelligence' is at work ... it means the language is better at coping with the kind of vague, intuitive knowledge which you find in the real world.
What will really make it work in the classroom is that it is fun. The software is robust enough for children to be able to play around with.
With packages like the History Project becoming available, MicroCODIL is potentially a very powerful teaching tool.
This is a fascinating language ... It will prove useful to anyone who has a genuine need for a flexible and intelligent database, from amateur genealogists to teachers and historians.
Steve Mansfield, Acorn User, November 1987
Expert systems have finally made it out of the artificial intelligence labs .... This is the result of two converging factors the increasing power of micros and the increasing elegance of software systems. The latter point is shown most clearly in MicroCODIL, a language which allows you to build useful expert systems and knowledge bases, and it succeeds in doing this even on a BBC.
The system can seem strange to those raised on Basic, but it doesn't take long to get into it.
Apart from the languages great potential in teaching, there is a lot to recommend it to home users. If you are interested in expert systems ... then MicroCODIL is worth trying out.
The documentation is excellent, providing both a tutorial and a reference source for the language.
Jaquetta Megarry, Times Educational Supplement, 6th Nov 1987
MicroCODIL provides an attractive entree to the study of intelligent knowledge based systems. There is an elegant simplicity built into its highly unconventional operation, and considerable attention has been paid to screen design and to providing windows that make the system transparent to the user. Its ability to deal with real-life information - in a variety of formats, complete with ambiguities and misspellings - is very impressive.
A good example of a serious database application is the History Project Pack - a disc and 72 page manual which comprises a substantial knowledge base (475 records) on a group of Hertfordshire farms and farmers in the 19th century. Parish register, census returns, trade directories, land tax records, tithe returns and wills are combined and indexed to provide rapid access to information on any named person or place.
Dr Reynolds has gone to great length to solve the technical problems of compatibility all the way from the basic Model B through to the Turbo Master.
Provision of a range of interesting knowledge bases makes it easy to get started with MicroCODIL, and the new step-by-step instructions provide a vital starting-point. At £5 the sampler disc is excellent value and highly recommended.
R._McDermott NEXT (Ceefax), 13th November 1987
MicroCODIL is an intelligent data base language of use to teachers of any subject where large amounts of data need to be searched, sorted or listed.
The MicroCODIL database system is a powerful and useful package.
A & B Computing, December 1987
MicroCODIL: An interesting newcomer to the BBC, a declarative language with good support material. If you are interested in artificial intelligence or in database work for any subject - then take a serious look. (From "Learning with the BBC, a retrospective look at the best educational packages around".)
Francis Botto, Disk User, June 1988
[MicroCODIL]'s inherent 'blurred' type of logic is an attempt to emulate another part of human intelligence, as our thought process in terms of comparisons and so on is not as exacting as the strict logic of almost all computer languages ....
[MicroCODIL] will no doubt find application in teaching children about AI as well as acquainting them with expert systems. There is most certainly a niche for such a language in schools, so who knows, MicroCODIL could eventually become to AI what LOGO is to mathematics.
Jean Underwood, The Psychologist, September 1988
MicroPROLOG is an earlier and obvious competitor to MicroCODIL, but the later has certain advantages for education. In the first place it is a relatively simple language and therefore children can very rapidly achieve meaningful goals without being bogged down in syntax. In this sense the language is in tune with other school-oriented software developments based around LOGO. The ability of the software to cope with data which are not rigidly structured further contributes to a feeling of easy accessibility. The simplicity of the language also leaves sufficient memory-space for data entry and manipulation whereas MicroPROLOG eats extensively into working memory.