Saturday, 29 October 2016

Want to see gaming’s past and future? Dive into the “educational” world of PLATO

In the days of mainframe computing, one system stood miles ahead of the rest. PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) wasn't special for its power or speed or graphical prowess, though. It was remarkable for the ideas that drove its development and for the breadth of its impact—starting in the 1960s and accelerating through the '70s and '80s, PLATO terminals became omnipresent throughout schools, universities, and offices around the world.

The PLATO system was designed for education. It had a programming language called TUTOR that was simple enough for non-technical people to use for writing software; it also notably offered a social environment. It was an online community as much as it was a computing platform, and in this capacity it envisaged much of the future of communication. PLATO had chat rooms, message boards, touch panels built into the (flat, plasma) screens, emoticons, animations, virtual economies, and more.

But PLATO also had a less heralded but equally influential component. And even if history has glossed over this detail and neglected to celebrate it, PLATO's gaming archives remain unforgettable for anyone who was there to experience the platform. These "lessons" infuriated administrators, delighted students, and, importantly, pushed the system to its limits.

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from Want to see gaming’s past and future? Dive into the “educational” world of PLATO

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