ASCII by Jason Scott

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PLATO’s Retreat —

So part of this is let you know of the PLATO 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. It’s June 2-3rd. If you have the ability to get out there to it and you have the slightest interest in computer history, you will want to go to this. It all happened a long time ago and a lot of the people speaking won’t be around for the next time attention is paid to PLATO. And it’s free.

If you don’t know what PLATO is, it’s worth checking that out as well, it did a lot of cool stuff and there’s a lot of documentation about it.

In fact, I think that’s most of what’s relevant for people.

But I also wanted to address that Brian Dear, the co-organizer of this event related to PLATO and a historian specializing in PLATO, is a jerk.  A twerp, a knob, a dweeb.

Oh, you can bet we have a history. I could write this big long jib-jabbery thing that would show up every time someone looked up his name, but that’s not the point. Maybe you’d agree with my assessment, maybe not. I’d whip out a few hilarious metaphors and recount, line by line, the thousand injuries of Brian Dear and his venturing upon insult. But all you’d have on the takeaway is “man, that was some crazy-ass takedown action there”.

No, what I want you to understand is that this event, this PLATO 50th Anniversary, which Dear has been spearheading and co-organizing since forever, is objectively good, objectively important. It is a fantastic thing that this is happening.

PLATO was, in a back-of-napkin description, a networked collection of computers allowing students to collaborate and communicate via software.  A lot of real interesting stuff happened online, as it always does, and there were things PLATO did that didn’t grab on in a general sense for years and decades afterwards.  It was a closed system, and it was only available to a small subset of people, and it made available to people a number of technologieis that were even more restricted in the past. There’s arguments that PLATO helped inspire Lotus Notes (and Content Management Systems) as well as first person shooters. There were some damned smart folks doing some damned cool things and a lot of it has been documented.

At the PLATO 50th anniversary event, many of the movers and shakers of PLATO will be in attendance and giving presentation. PLATO’s been recognized over the years, but this being the 50th anniversary and all, a lot of people will be on various stages and various technology will be shown that hasn’t been done on this scale before.  Also, it’s held at the Computer History Museum, folks who I have seen really get their act in shape and do amazing stuff - I got to play Space War on vintage hardware against Slug Russell, for crying out loud!

Here’s some promotional material: PLATO @ 50 Conference

Too many times in my research and historical work, and reading how things went down in the past, I’ve seen where personal dislike has caused great chances to be missed. Not attending an event because someone you don’t like might be there. Refusing to work with a technology because one of its most vocal proponents is a fuck. Working with a technology because one of its most vocal opponents is a fuck.  I find locations where I wonder why someone critical to the subject didn’t get involved with another group of people, and it comes down to personal irritation and political infighting. I realize that’s always going to be the case with situations like close collaboration and partnership; so be it. But then it expands outward, with people refusing to attend something en masse because one pillowbiter is associated with something that 100+ folks are organizing, and then we’re just talking needless loss and destruction of opportunity.

Now, I’m not going, but because of scheduling, not any other reason. I really wish I could go, and I intend to get any videos and audio from the conference that I can. But if you’re local, please go to this thing. It’s big stuff.

Oh, and sure, you could walk up to Brian Dear and ask why I think he’s a twerp, a knob, a dweeb. But lay off – I’m sure he’ll be busy with all the little things associated with an event like this and he should have his 48 hours in the sun.

I’ll devote more space and time to PLATO in future entries, but for now, please make plans.  Tell your friends. If computer history matters to you, there’s going to be a lot to learn and see at this event.


Categorised as: computer history

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11 Comments

  1. Lee says:

    You, sir, are not alone. Not even remotely alone. He’s a walking, huffing, sighing rain cloud. Likewise, I could go on and on. But that time has fortunately passed.

    Kudos on keepin on.

  2. Brian Dear is uncannily similar to Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces. That’s all I have to say.

  3. Jason Scott says:

    A little appendix to this:

    A lot of people consider me a jerk, a twerp, a knob, a dweeb. I do not get along well with swaths of folks and leave them grasping for heavy objects or a drinks after every interaction. I have endeavored, in all of my historical work, to make it so you don’t have to deal with me to get at the history and work I provide. You can copy the BBS Documentary and watch it online, download all of textfiles.com, and generally take advantage of “the stuff’ without having to deal with “the asshole”. I think that’s important, and while that idea that I think of myself as so awesome that even my own hacks for dealing with my own assholery is even greater assholery, the result is the same: you get at the stuff, unbranded, unwatermarked, unrestricted. That’s the best I can do.

    History should be about the history, not the historian.

  4. bbot says:

    Doesn’t “pillowbiter” mean “homosexual”?

    • Jason Scott says:

      It can, but I was artistically using it more along the lines of “wimp”, which is not as frequent a colloquial use. If anyone took it the wrong way, I understand but it was not intended.

  5. Alkivar says:

    “History should be about the history, not the historian.”

    damn I wish more historians thought this way…

    is the whole field of history/historical research really as full of as many self important pompous assholes as I think it is? I just started considering going to grad school for a Masters in History because i’ve always loved researching the past, but after interviewing with two universities, I’ve given up that thought because just about everyone i met was a self important jerkwad.

  6. John H. says:

    Are you aware of cyber1, an emulated PLATO system with free accounts available and with much of the old software available for use?

  7. Richard Wheston says:

    I consider it vitally important to separate the art from the artist.

  8. Steve says:

    John H: Yes.

  9. Pfeffer says:

    Whenever you think the problem is “out there…” that thought is the problem…