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Education Chief Should Know About PLATO and the History of Online CS Education 134

theodp writes Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marvels that his kids can learn to code online at their own pace thanks to "free" lessons from Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for "changing the way my kids learn" (Duncan calls out his kids' grade school for not offering coding). The 50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale, may be surprised to learn that the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later (Roger Ebert remarked in his 2011 TED Talk that seeing Khan Academy gave him a flashback to the PLATO system he reported on in the '60s). So, does it matter if the nation's education chief — who presides over a budget that includes $69 billion in discretionary spending — is clueless about The Hidden History of Ed-Tech? Some think so. "We can't move forward," Hack Education's Audrey Watters writes, "til we reconcile where we've been before." So, if Duncan doesn't want to shell out $200 to read a 40-year-old academic paper on the subject (that's a different problem!) to bring himself up to speed, he presumably can check out the free offerings at A 1975 paper on Interactive Systems for Education, for instance, notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester, not bad considering that Khan Academy is boasting that it "helped over 2000 girls learn to code" in 2014 (after luring their teachers with funding from a $1,000,000 Google Award). Even young techies might be impressed by the extent of PLATO's circa-1975 online CS offerings, from lessons on data structures and numerical analysis to compilers, including BASIC, PL/I, SNOBOL, APL, and even good-old COBOL.
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Education Chief Should Know About PLATO and the History of Online CS Education

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  • Not news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @11:21AM (#48385613) Homepage Journal
    A presidential appointee who is ignorant and unqualified? Horrors!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      But he is known as being a very good basketball player. Doesn't that count for something?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Except he's not. He knows about the Khan academy, and modern systems. He just doesn't know about some niche system from 40 years ago. Not knowing irrelevant details in the history of a subject doesn't make one ignorant of the subject. The entire premise of this story is completely false. It's the kind of intellectual masturbation that makes reasonable debate as to the guy's actual qualifications impossible.

      • On-line education systems are irrelevant to someone who is pushing on-line education systems? Nice job ass-hole.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          On-line education systems are irrelevant to someone who is pushing on-line education systems?

          Knowing historical trivia about a system from 40 years ago that was used by almost nobody is not particularly important.

          It is also not important to master ALGOL before learning Java or C++, or to learn how to ride a horse before driving a car.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            PLATO was pretty wide-spread in the late 70's and early 80's. It's been largely forgotten, but that doesn't make it any less important. It would be like saying Xerox Park was irrelevant because not many people used it.

            Speaking as someone who actually used PLATO (I think I was around 12 at the time), I learned the basics of Fortran, Pascal, APL, and COBOL. Do I use any of those today? No. Was it valuable learning how different programming languages approach the same problems? Yes.

            Reinventing the wheel

          • Knowing historical trivia about a system from 40 years ago that was used by almost nobody is not particularly important.

            Knowing the state of the art is important. Khan Academy is by no means the state of the art -- it's a one-size-doesn't-actually-fit-all video course that broke the decades-old mold only in being short videos rather than TV-program-length ones.

            The state-of-the-art is adaptive learning systems that track individual progress and performance, and present problem sets that specifically target the learner. Posters here have stated that PLATO was adaptive, which makes it more advanced than KA. If the government is

      • Re:Not news (Score:5, Informative)

        by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @12:19PM (#48386161)

        The Plato system was not a niche system. It was a complete automated learning system with content in all areas, reading , writing ,math, history. They were the first to have the curriculum adapt to the students progress and allow, theoretically at least, a student to follow a course of study independently.

        They did not close their doors until 2006.

        Anyone involved in the educational software market knew and respected Plato.

        • by sudon't ( 580652 )

          Nobody had computers at home in the 70's. Or the internet. It wasn't like coding was considered something the average kid should even know about, then. It only seems relevant in retrospect. It ridiculous to expect the man to be aware of every bit of history, of every field of education. It may not have seemed that way if you were in it, but to everybody else, computer science was a highly specialized (niche) field in the 70's. If you were outside of that field, you had no reason to go near a terminal.

          • If he's 50, he was born in 1964, so he might have gone to college before Apple II's became widespread. But when I was in high school from 1972-1974, we had time-sharing access to a PDP-11 at the nearby state university (with one teletype shared for the entire school), so by 8 years later it's likely he had something a lot fancier. My wife's high school didn't have that - they used punch cards, which got batch-processed weekly.

            I first encountered PLATO in college, and it had Notesfiles (which contributed

        • Having run several labs with PLATO in classrooms across our district, it is no surprise that they closed their doors in 2006. They pretty much priced themselves out of the market for schools that didn't have discretionary budgets of $40K in licensing. While it might seem reasonable in a world flush with money, I can assure you that there was no way could spend half a million dollars to get every school a lab.

          We stopped using it when XP came out simply because it was too expensive to upgrade from the crappy

        • PLATO is alive and well and living inside Edmentum, Inc. They still have rights to the trademark. To clarify: The original PLATO system went in three major directions: 1) University of Illinois retained ownership of everything written on the system. The courseware was eventually licensed to Pearson as NOVANet. 2) Control Data licensed the operating system and developed its own PLATO content, as well as a test administration technology and other product lines such as aviation training. Most of these lin
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nabsltd ( 1313397 )

        He just doesn't know about some niche system from 40 years ago.

        PLATO was many things, but not "niche".

        I'm the same age as the SecEd, didn't go to "prestige" schools like he did, and still had access to systems running PLATO.

      • Re:Not news (Score:5, Informative)

        by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @12:42PM (#48386379)

        I think the point of the story is that Duncan has never shown any curiosity once he got out of college. His degree is in Sociology and not Education so I think there are some valid questions as to his qualifications. I think it's rather telling that he doesn't even know what's been done in the past in the field in which he's employed. You have to wonder just that the heck he does all day. He's never done anything in education other than be an administrator. And he's never been much good at doing that. Chicago's pubic schools were a mess when he started running them and they were a mess when he left. Actual educators can't stand the guy.

        BTW, PLATO was hardly a "niche" system and it was certainly never considered "irrelevant" by anyone who knows what the heck they're talking about. I first encountered it while on a two week high school trip (JETS) to UofI but didn't have as much time to access it as I would have liked. There were PLATO terminals in many colleges back in the '70s; I know there was at least a couple of them where I did my undergraduate work. The PLATO terminals were heavily used and getting time on them required signing up for a time slot well in advance. It's may be "cool" nowadays to consider the PLATO system "niche" but people need to remember that the world of computing and computer-aided education didn't begin with the Internet. PLATO was in use while Duncan was going to college at Harvard; maybe they just didn't have a terminal in the Sociology Department.

        • Re:Not news (Score:4, Insightful)

          by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @02:37PM (#48387289)

          I think the point of the story is that Duncan has never shown any curiosity once he got out of college.

          This is true for a vast majority of people who graduated from high school and/or college, who see learning as the end of a long journey and not the beginning of a neverending journey. The education system tells them to stop learning, so they stopped learning and go through life without questioning the world around them. Some are even proud of being stupid or ignorant.

    • Re:Not news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Friday November 14, 2014 @02:38PM (#48387293) Homepage

      That's what the summary want you to believe. However, it's the summary that ignorant - because the submitter cannot seem to grasp that back in the 70's it was quite possible for kids in one place to have the opportunity and kids in another to not have that opportunity.

      I really shouldn't have to explain this, but as bias has already replaced facts in the summary and your reply, I guess I have to.

      Back then (remember, we're talking the 1970's), not everyone (even at 'elite' schools) had the opportunity to interact with a computers - especially if you weren't in a computer or science field. For kids at home? Home computers were very unusual. Home computers with a video screen and a modem and acess to a mainframe? Don't make me laugh. It's true in the latter half of the 70's that home computers began to be available and affordable, but they simply weren't that widespread. Radio Shack was selling the TRS-80 and it's derivatives... at the stunning rate of 10,000 a year. Commodore PET's sold at a similar rate, as did the Apple II (And the US had a population of 225 million - you do the math.) Nor did we have the public internet or the WWW.

      Now of course, we're going to have some other old farts pipe up and explain that *they* had access to this stuff back then - and then indulge in the logical fallacy of generalizing from their experience. (To those who make the mistake of claiming I'm doing the same - go back and look at those sales numbers in the previous paragraph. And digging around, I find similiar sales numbers for mini-computers in the same era.) They're wrong six ways from Sunday, computers simply weren't part of the everyday life of most people and almost all kids back in the 1970's. In 1978, my dad helped a local hospital install their first ever computerized patient data system.* The year I graduated high school (1981), it's was (local) newsworthy that the local stores of a major national chain were installing a computerized POS system. (The guy they moved into town to manage them was our neighbor.) They weren't even networked - tapes were shipped back and forth and he had to drive around town installing the tapes and collecting the ones with sales data to be shipped back to Headquarters. (I didn't even see my first punch card until my sophomore year in high school - and it was from Ma Bell.)

      That is the reality of computers in the late 1970's and very early 1980's. They were just barely beginning to move out of academia and the big corporations. Individual (home/turnkey) computers were available, but were pretty rare. Networks of computers practically unheard of. In the year Secretary Duncan would have graduated high school (1982), we were indeed on the cusp of a great revolution - but it hadn't happened yet. It would be almost another decade before home computers (and thus the chance for kids to interact with them) became nearly ubiquitous. And even so, as a computer salesman in '91 and '92 I still had to explain to people what computers were and why it was a good idea to have one, especially if they had kids.

      So, being a year older than Secretary Duncan, I don't find it all surprising he didn't have the chance to learn to code when he was a kid. I did, but I was a very inquisitive geek, he doesn't appear to have been. Nor do I find it surprising that he doesn't know about a semi-obscure academic experiment that happened when he was a kid. (And that seems to have actually trained only a couple of thousand kids across a decade and a half.) Nor does it actually matter much that he didn't, because the reality is the opportunity was very rare when he was a kid.

      *Which I always thought odd, because he was a printer with pretty much no experience with computers. It wasn't for many years that I found out that the hospital had hired him to help adapt their existing paper flow to the computer flow. (Back then, it frequently was printers who designed forms and often helped design the data flow - because the physical con

  • My dad did a Masters in Math at Illinois back in the 60's. Part of his work was PLATO, and I still have an original manual. :)

  • I learned my first line-number BASIC (*ptui!*) on an ASR-33 teletype via time-sharing on a Control Data system in public school in Arlington, VA in 1975.

    I wrote dumb exponentiation loop programs about Ben [], and how his rats would take over the city.

    • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

      Teletype? Luxury! My mother learnt to program when she was in secondary school by posting punched cards across the country to Manchester University and getting the results back a week later.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Really? Which high school? In '72, Yorktown had an ASR-33 connected to a Honeywell DDP-516 located in Silver Spring, MD. The timesharing company was Dialcom.

      • by jddj ( 1085169 )

        I was actually in Junior High at Williamsburg JHS at the time - 8th grade. The "Dialcom" name is familiar - I could be wrong about it being a CDC machine.

        Our math teachers were pretty baffled, but trying to put a brave face on kicking off our computer education. There was a lot of "hope I don't break this thing" hesitation. There were a few hardy souls there who really helped us get started.

        It appalled me when I got to college in '77 that I had to go backwards to punch cards and JCL for Fortran. Ugh.

        I spent

  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @11:30AM (#48385693)

    Studying Plato's "The Republic" will give people insight into politicians, their shitty actions, their ability to bullshit people, and give them some tools to see through the rhetoric and be more impacting to their Government. I have been saying for decades that we need to get these classes back into schools and teach rhetoric and logic to a much younger age instead of restricting this to very few people at a college level.

    Oh wait, this is PLATO which has nothing to do with political thought.. Yes, lets continue to neglect educating people about those dangerous bits of knowledge and continue pushing the industrial education system. Nothing new here.

    • Somebody failed reading comprehension:

      " ...Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for 'changing the way my kids learn'..."

      "...who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale,"

      "...the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system..."

      "...notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester..."

      • by s.petry ( 762400 )
        Try reading past the first paragraph. No, I read nothing else you said after the false accusations and ad hominem. If you don't understand the 2nd paragraph blame your public school and request clarification.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 14, 2014 @11:35AM (#48385741)

    Almost half the summary text is not linking to anything, why does nobody check these things?

  • In the 60s and 70s, home PCs were not common, the Internet was a research project and long distance phone calls were expensive.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      >50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up
      >attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale,

      54 Year Old Grey Beard here. I had plenty of, maybe too much, opportunity to program in Fortran, and C when I was an undergraduate at the same time he was an undergraduate. Computer time was expensive funny money but otherwise available. Maybe if he ACTUALLY signed up for a computer programming class....

  • Seems to me that kids who want to learn to hack around with a computer can quite well do so on their own, thank you. No need for some set of lessons, be they gov't-approved or not.

    I mean, really: at the very worst, 10 minutes with a search engine, the term " introduction and tutorial for $LANGUAGE" or Stackoverflow should get anyone capable of comprehending what programming is in the first place off and running.

    • It's not just nanny-state, it's corporate scheming to bring down the wages of software developers. The Masters of the Universe are upset that they have to pay programmers a middle class wage so the goal is to cram as many kids into programming classes as they can hoping to eventually flood the market. Yes, I understand that not everybody can code or think like a programmer, but there are an awful lot of people who could, but they choose to be a biologist instead. The point is to steer that kid and others li

      • when programmers union up and start demanding paying their wages in bitcoin or Gold, the corporate scheme will be over. When USD lose their reserve currency status the game will be wide open.

    • Because everything you need to know when coding is the library of a language, right?
    • You have no idea how difficult it is to write a good lesson for any subject. Most coding tutorials are written by coders who have no idea how little a beginner knows, and they only really useful to coders learning a new technology. Some tutorials are written by people who understand how little beginners know, but only because they themselves are beginners, which unfortunately means that they don't understand the language.

      Even a lot of the courses on Coursera etc aren't perfect, as the teachers are trying to

  • He must have thought those big round glowing tubes were a new experimental kind of light bulb.

    Oh. U. Chicago. U Illinois(Urbana). Not the same. Too bad he went to the wrong school.

    I visited in the 70's when I was in college to attend some talk about Plato and to see it in action.

    Strange that my third-tier college in Detroit gave every student the "opportunity" to learn programming skills, and required it in many curriculums - certainly for any of the sciences, including political. Indeed, those of us in Com

  • Oops...Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987, after majoring in sociology.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wow, 40 links on a news summary ... am I supposed to spend all day on this item??

  • ... about those who fail to learn from the past, to those who fail to learn in the past.
  • "Have You Ever Heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates?" ... "Morons!" "Really."

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @11:55AM (#48385917) Journal

    Perhaps the federal Department of Education is just a complete boondoggle?

    Have schools really benefitted from this department, which was only formed in 1980? Has the quality of education gone up since then? Have the costs come down?

  • by jsepeta ( 412566 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @11:58AM (#48385943) Homepage

    Arne Duncan's claim to fame is outsourcing Chicago schools to private for-profit corporations, undercutting the public school system. He's a world-class jerk and it's shameful that he's in charge of America's education policy. Shameful.

  • by mabu ( 178417 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @12:11PM (#48386079)

    I learned to program on PLATO. It was an AMAZING system. In addition to supporting a variety of development environments, their system used a proprietary language called TUTOR. A good bit of networking technology today is derivative of this amazing system. I wasn't rich, although I noted a lot of kids who had access to PLATO tended to be children of CEOs and such. My parents worked at a college that had a grant to have the terminals available. The games on the system were also amazing.

    As a programmer, PLATO was a great example of the "cloud"-type systems that will eventually become standard.. what Google is doing and Adobe is now proposing was done in the 70s at Plato, with centrally-hosted apps that routinely are updated automatically. As developers we could put in requests for program features and see them reflected in newer versions of the API. 512x512 resolution, touch sensitive screens, multi-player, real-time games between people all over the world..... in the 70s.

    By the way, the original PLATO system has been ported and is running over TCP/IP. If you're willing to donate to the project, they have been known to grant access to people wanting to experience what it was like. See: []

    By the way if anyone has the archive of the PLATO game 0drygulch.. PLEASE contact them... we've been dying to find that code and put it online.

    • As a programmer, PLATO was a great example of the "cloud"-type systems that will eventually become standard.. what Google is doing and Adobe is now proposing was done in the 70s at Plato, with centrally-hosted apps that routinely are updated automatically. As developers we could put in requests for program features and see them reflected in newer versions of the API. 512x512 resolution, touch sensitive screens, multi-player, real-time games between people all over the world..... in the 70s.

      This describes any website with AJAX and dynamic updates, now. It's not something coming (again) in the future, it's here at the moment.

  • by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Friday November 14, 2014 @12:13PM (#48386109) Homepage Journal

    I went to the University of Illinois in the 80’s, I’d heard of Plato, but didn’t get to experience it. That said I had gone to a community college my first two years (Blackhawk College in Moline) and remember a multimedia learning experience involved slides, audio, and text input that really seemed to accelerate my learning on some writing fundamentals that may not have been up to snuff after high school. I remember thinking this is the way education should be. That experience didn’t linger however and it was back to a slog of just regular book learning.

    I have thought on this over an over the last few decades. I took the huge Stanford AI course by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig. I did well, but it was a disappointment in presentation and did not feel to be the accelerated learning sensation I’d had all those years ago at Blackhawk.

    Why are we re-writing Calculus books over and over? Why isn’t there some insanely great multimedia interactive national curriculum for this sort of stuff. Why when we are busing kids around aren’t they on tablets watching lectures and doing interactive lessons?

    I have seen the argument over and over that kids need individualized attention by teachers to do well, but I fail to understand why all the drudge assignment work and pre-scripted presentations have to be created and done by those same teachers. Why aren’t the teachers more like facilitators helping the kids to navigate and understand the material as created and presented by the truly best presenters online?

    We frequently find mistakes in the material our child brings home that the teachers have prepared. We send it back with corrections explained to the teachers, but why should I have to proof read the teacher’s material? And our local elementary school is supposedly among the best here in Maryland. I can only imagine how abysmal the homework assignments are at poorer schools. Again, why are the teachers creating the homework assignments? I understand tailoring the explanations to the students as they struggle to master something, I don’t understand why the bulk of of assignments have to be custom created by the teachers, especially when they are going to flub it so often.

    My wife and I spend a great deal of time educating our daughter, I feel it is almost home schooling and she gets very little from school itself. While she is an straight A student and we are proud, I am also angry we have to invest so much time and energy to teach her what she should be getting in school. Yes our daughter absolutely wants harder assignments and material in school, but the teachers hold back students like our daughter to keep the material at a level the bulk of the class can keep up with.

  • I remember PLATO from the mid-70's. It was available a number of universities, all "networked" together by using central servers. I even wrote course material in TUTOR (the PLATO language) for a class I was a TA for. Definitely ahead of its time.
  • I grew up in the 70s. I was a nerd and my friends were nerds. I don't recall any of my friends having an option to take classes like this

    We did use terminals at the main city library to play games like Oregon Trail, but learning to code wasn't an option until I got past high school Algebra

    My guess is that you needed a special invitation to get into these classes, and you could only get an invitation if your parents or teachers knew the right people.

    • During the '70s, it was mostly available for students at the University of Illinois. (I was the lead programmer for the Modern Hebrew project, and I know all of the first semester students used it. We even created a threaded notes system that let students write posts in Hebrew.) With quick response time, programmable fonts, and graphic display, it was well ahead of its time.
    • My guess it was an "affluent suburb or city magnet school" thing. Meaning the sort of school a stereotypical slashdotter might have attended, which is why quite a few have said they had access to it.

      They're probably kind of guys who's father had a tech job who got them an account on their workplace's unix box, who got a Vic20, a C64 the next year and a PC clone the year after.

      They got PLATO, but god forbid you live in a small town or rural area without a university to put PLATO in the local school.

      As an ex

    • Most of those kids were at University High, a school that I actually know little about. And what I say here may be wildly apochryphal. God knows, there are probably folks who actuallly went there lurking here (and so, they should chime in). But I digress...

      As my feeble recollection recalls (this was almost 40 years ago, you know) Uni High (as it was known by the natives) was a research vehicle for the Education Department at the University, where latest theories were sometimes field-tested. All I know is th

  • I was a CS undergrad and never used the Plato system for structured learning, but played many an enjoyable hour in the basement of the CS building on a Plato terminal playing Empire. Was the best Star Trek game back in the day. Fantastic game for its day, and very fun after spending uncounted hours hacking some assigned programming task into shape.
  • by Alrescha ( 50745 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @12:33PM (#48386287)

    Ted Nelson's Computer Lib / Dream Machines (c) 1974 has a section on educational systems, including PLATO.

    The tagline was "You can and must understand computers NOW". Challenge accepted.


  • Back in the Day... (Score:5, Informative)

    by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @12:33PM (#48386295) Homepage

    I took online courses on PLATO and wrote simple games for it. The hardware was laughable by today's standards - plasma screens that glowed orange text (and lines!) from a dark blue background with touch input provided on about a 1/2" grid coupled with hideously clunky keyboards having their own special function keys - but it was reasonably reliable and allowed some of the first really large scale research on CHI.

    Not that anyone other than researchers actually gave a crap about that last part.

    But the system was fun to write programs for. It had a pretty OK language for the day, called TUTOR, that contained necessary primitives to make it Turing complete along with others to let you write onto the screen in a variety of ways. Again, pretty primitive by today's standards, but enough to teach programming with - they were debugging the interpreter (I think Fortran) and I played with it once. Pretty advanced for the time with breakpoints being highlighted.

    And of course this is back in the late 1970's. Before the PC was a gleam in IBM's eye. The whole thing ran as on a huge CDC 6600 running a custom OS (as many were, in those days). Odd instruction set by an even odder designer you may have heard of - guy named Seymour Cray. Quirkier than hell with 60-bit words, 18-bit address space, and 6-bit bytes (yes, we spoke octal). But that was back in the day when minicomputers were eating the lunch of the mainframe boys. CDC, whom the University of Illinois partnered with to productize the system, couldn't muster the resources or talent to market this system while swirling down the toilet.

    And, like so many things in computing, we see progress, good ideas thwarted by, well, nothing but the fact that people are short-sighted and, if something doesn't make a buck for someone, we drop it on the floor. So it goes...

    • Started college in 81, and we had USCD Pascal & p-system. On a basic Apple II we had a full editor, compiler, debugger rolled together, a networked file system, and a self-paced instructional system to learn to program (with human proctors to grade you after every section though). Add another decade though and the state of computing actually seemed worse overall.

      The history of computing actually seems to go backwards at times with technology and/or software becoming more primitive as time passes.

    • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) *

      I"m not sure I'd say TUTOR was an ok language for the day. It didn't even have local variables. Local variables were so controversial that I had to leave the University of Illinois and get a job as a system programmer with CDC to add local variables to TUTOR.

  • US Education Chief Should Know About PLATO and the History of Online CS Educatio

    Does online CS education also include lessons on how to make database columns wide enough to contain article titles?
    (Or comment subjects)

  • by Doctor-R ( 885000 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @12:49PM (#48386449) Homepage
    On June 3, 2010, the Computer History Museum hosted a 6-session conference on the PLATO learning system. Session 1 was entitled "A Culture of Innovation: What Don Bitzer Wrought." [] Session 2 was entitled "Innovations in Hardware: Mission-based Developments Led Other Places." [] Session 3 was entitled "PLATO Software: Driven by a Clear, Compelling Challenge." [] Session 4 was entitled "Online Education & Courseware: Lessons Learned, Insights Gleaned." [] Session 5 was entitled "PLATO Games: An Early, Robust Community of Multiplayer, Online Games." [] Session 6 was entitled "An Early Online Community: People Plus Computing Grows Communities." []
  • I know we don't RFTA..but c'mon 17 links in one post? You expected me to open 17 tabs today??
  • Wish I had had access to Plato. So much came from it, including the genesis of Lotus Notes. Computer education was just starting in the late 60's. My 1968 high school physics class had a student teacher from a local college that taught us FORTRAN, on a RCA mainframe. We used punch cards the first year and then in 1969, a paper-tape teletype was installed. Kids will be kids. We quickly learned to save ASCII art on paper-tape and sent a foot long rendition of the finger to the operator's console. This
    • Touch screens.
      E Mail.
      Chat Rooms
      In-app Messaging

      And a lot more. PLATO delivered features not found in public systems until decades later.

  • Why does Kahn need access to my gmail account? Free? not so much I think. []
  • $200 for the 40-year old paper includes membership. Non-members get the paper for $15. Can you please not misrepresent?

    Not that I'm defending this. The article should be free, and $15 is way too much (even the 24-hour "rental" for $3 is too much). But it isn't $200.

  • Missing the point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jtara ( 133429 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @04:19PM (#48388057)

    A lot of posters are missing the point, and stating that it's understandable that he didn't know about Plato, given it's limited availability.

    Perhaps excusable. I read Computer Lib/Dream Machines and, yes, that was my first knowledge of Plato. And I was a Computer Science student and hobbyist.

    But what he stated is that he did not have the opportunity to learn about computers. That's total nonsense. He apparently just avoided it. Any college student in engineering, social sciences, etc. in the 70's would have plenty of opportunity to take conventional classes, and in most schools they would have been required.

    • My high school did not have computers. The junior college I attended did, for those that took programming classes. Radio Shak was selling the TRS-80, we'd hang out at the mall and play Star Trek on it. So no, computers weren't everywhere, but they weren't hard to find. I have to confess I'm not familiar with PLATO.
  • Is someone here trying to imply that out elected leaders need to be competent? What nonsense! They only have to be compliant and obedient to their lords and masters on Wall Street, fossil fuels, defence contractors, big pharma, and big ag (Who did I miss?). They'll ensure that the "right" legislation gets written for them to pass by ALEC and other similar organisations.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    PLATO of course predated the Internet, however it also predated most of the things we take for granted these days. For instance, graphical displays, multimedia content, high levels of interactivity, routine linking to other sources, and so forth. PLATO therefore had to do stuff like invent a workable visual paradigm (modern term is the UI). This level of creation was routine at the time.

    More than anything though, PLATO took a serious stab at generating lots of content. Most systems of the day foundered

  • The comments seem to imply you can no longer experience PLATO. That's not true. There is an emulator for the PLATO Terminal available at: [] I even bought a really cool T-Shirt from them and a patch celebrating the 50th Anniversary of PLATO on June 2-3, 2010 in Mountain View California. Try it, if I remember right, even the old airplane design programs are there.

    Remember "Press NEXT to begin".

    • As noted above, the PLATO courseware created by Control Data is still available, in significantly updated form, from Edmentum, inc. They've also built some new curricula from scratch. It's browser-based now. The original PLATO courseware created on the University of Illinois system was selectively marketed as NOVANet by Pearson. Other parts of the PLATO system live on in other implementations of LMS, e-mail, threaded chat, multiplayer games, simulations, and so on. And I would give credit to the PLATO pr

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.