PLATO originated in the early 1960's at the Urbana campus of the
University of Illinois. Professor Don Bitzer became interested
in using computers for teaching, and with some colleagues founded
the Computer-based Education Research Laboratory (CERL). Bitzer,
an electrical engineer, collaborated with a few other engineers
to design the PLATO hardware. To write the software, he
collected a staff of creative eccentrics ranging from university
professors to high school students, few of whom had any computer
background. Together they built a system that was at least a
decade ahead of its time in many ways.
PLATO is a timesharing system. (It was, in fact, one of the
first timesharing systems to be operated in public.) Both
courseware authors and their students use the same high-resolution
graphics display terminals, which are connected to a
central mainframe. A special-purpose programming language called
TUTOR is used to write educational software.
Throughout the 1960's, PLATO remained a small system, supporting
only a single classroom of terminals. About 1972, PLATO began a
transition to a new generation of mainframes that would
eventually support up to one thousand users simultaneously.
Copyright © 1994 by David R. Woolley
Copyright (c) 1996 - 2006 Elizabeth Mattijsen
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