There have been several times recently, when I have been explaining to some interested soul, some program or lesson or workshop presented by someone in Webheads. And I am sure that from the exciting tone of my voice it makes it sound as if Webheads must have invented the internet! But of course that is far from the truth…Al Gore did.
In fact, tonight I was thinking about that very thing, the invention of the tools we have come to use and love. When were these tools first used and why?
In my quest for an answer, I came across a fellow who was there in the early days of “email, chat rooms, instant messaging, addictive multiplayer games, multimedia, news, movie reviews, and message forums on everything from art, science, and literature, to sex, drugs, and rock and roll”. His name is Brian Dear.
In fact, Brian Dear is writing a book about his experience with a piece of historical computerism called “PLATO”. Brian’s own experience with PLATO came when he made almost daily post onto the program from 1979-1984. And Brian wasn’t the first there. In fact, on Brian’s Blog site, you will learn that Plato began it’s existence 31 years ago (PLATO Notes first released – August 7, 1973):
PLATO was created at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and beginning in the mid-70s was marketed commercially by Control Data Corporation (now long gone, the last remnants being a part of the current Syntegra Corp.). PLATO as a branded product continues to this day, in an evolved form available from PLATO Learning, Inc. (now the owners of the registered trademark, "PLATO"). Other offshoots CDC PLATO include CYBIS® from UOL Publishing, Inc., which has evolved into VCampus, Inc.. And of course, there's NovaNET, the successor to PLATO at the University of Illinois, and now marketed by Pearson Ed Tech. (Ironically, the great rivals PLATO and Computer Curriculum Corporation are finally under one roof -- Pearson owns both.)
The story is a fascinating one, and reading about it through his eyes is give the reader a truly a one-of-a-kind experience. His personal recollections of how the thing came to be, of who used it in the early days, and of all the computer programs and technology that find their roots in it, are phenomenal. Brian has really done his research.
Spend a little time reading from “Plato People, A History Book Research Project” I think it you will find it an amazing history.
That leaves me with this thought to wrap up with: Thirty years ago, a bunch of young rowdy kids had taken what was ostensibly an educational tool, and over a period of time those kids used that tool to invent so many of the tools that we use so nonchalantly today. Those same rowdy kids became the movers and shakers of an incredible world of Technology today. When you look out across the classroom at the rowdy kids, and see the wonder in their eyes, when you introduce a new concept like a blog or instant messaging or video cams…Do you wonder what impact that that little tidbit of technology will have impacted them thirty years from now? How will they take this introduction and change it to suit their individual whims and wants and what will it develop into in thirty years. What will their roads to advancement be? How many of them will become movers and shakers in their own worlds of technology?
There is a part of the historical story that Brian has written about on his site, in which he describes encountering one of the Universities that had been important to the growth of computer science, having erecting metal plaques to mark and celebrate the history of computing on their campus. He argues that the archivists got some of the information on the plaques wrong, simply because there was no written history of Plato and it's importance and the folks that lived through the Plato experience have since gone down their merry paths to other things and sort of disappeared from sight. The job of correcting the history has been left to Brian Dear to correct.
As I read about the plaques, I could not help but wonder if there would, in thirty years, be a plaque somewhere, for Webheads, and if so, how much of the history would be inaccurate? I wonder which country would be the proud possessor of such a plaque? Or if anyone would even remember in thirty years?