At a time when Steve Jobs was only a teenager and Mark Zuckerberg wasn't even born, a group of visionary engineers and designers - some of them only high school students - in the late 1960s and 1970s created a computer system called PLATO, which was not only years but light-years ahead in experimenting with how people would learn, engage, communicate, and play through connected computers. Not only did PLATO engineers make significant hardware breakthroughs with plasma displays and touch screens, but PLATO programmers also came up with a long list of software innovations: chat rooms, instant messaging, message boards, screen savers, multiplayer games, online newspapers, interactive fiction, and emoticons. Together, the PLATO community pioneered what we now collectively engage in as cyberculture. They were among the first to identify and also realize the potential and scope of the social interconnectivity of computers, well before the creation of the Internet. PLATO was the foundational model for every online community that was to follow in its footsteps.
The Friendly Orange Glow is the first history to recount in fascinating detail the remarkable accomplishments and the inspiring personal stories of the PLATO community. The addictive nature of PLATO both ruined many a college career and launched path-breaking multimillion-dollar software products. Its development, impact, and eventual disappearance provides an instructive case study of technological innovation and disruption, project management, and missed opportunities. Above all, The Friendly Orange Glow at last reveals new perspectives on the origins of social computing and our Internet-infatuated world.
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By reo on 21-01-18
Great listen for those who interacted with Plato
If you could sum up The Friendly Orange Glow in three words, what would they be?
In depth background on the Plato system and how it provided not only an educational teaching system but also a precursor to how networked users would use the system.
What did you like best about this story?
Brought back memories of going to the U of I and taking Plato courses and making the right decision after a couple of extended sessions of Airfight that one could easily get addicted to playing these multi-user games.
What about George Newbern’s performance did you like?
It is a good performance. One nit is that the University of Illinois is known as "U of I" not "UI".
Any additional comments?
There is a twit podcast called triangulation that has an interview with the author, Brian Dear. I'm thankful he wrote this book. I always wondered what the story was behind Plato.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Robert C. Hickcox on 08-08-18
Memory lane for the cyberist.
Great job on giving the personal stories, history and culture of Plato, the foundation of our cyber world. I first touch a Plato terminal as a young USAF computer operations officer in 1976. I worked at DEC, daily using VAX Notes, NCS with NovaNet, Pearson and Plato Learning. Kudos to the author!!!!