PLATO and learning models (was Re: NuTek Mac comes)

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at
Fri Jul 15 12:03:18 CDT 2016

On Fri, 15 Jul 2016, Liam Proven wrote:
> Sounds great. I never saw a PLATO terminal. :-( Wish I had now!

I wish they'd had a few at schools I attended. I think someone on the list 
mentioned that PLATO content could be viewed on Apple hardware, too. The 
wikipedia article on it is very detailed. 

I've always liked the idea of a "full educational kit" meaning that 
someone creates a nearly comprehensive set of documents written stepwise 
from absolute beginner level to help you advance to at least a 
journeyman's level of skill with as many other self-help/self-learning 
tools thrown in as could be possibly useful. From the description, PLATO 
seems to have embraced that idea at various points depending on who was 
writing content.

Cool things about PLATO:
  * It had graphics, but ran on terminals! 
  * It could do animations in the content
  * It supported speech synthesis. Blind folks want to play too! 
  * Cool people were involved (NSF, Navy, Air Force, many scientists & 
    engineers, Control Data, etc..)
  * It had a flight simulator! 
  * It punched above it's CPU power for a i8080
  * It was said to be easy to code for (TUTOR was the lang, sayeth 
  * They had MUDs and other cool multi-user games, as well as "social 
    media" (ie.. chat and multi-user applications). 
  * Even way back when, they had touch screens! 

I'm sad I didn't get to learn physics 101 from one! However, my instructor 
for that class happened to be awesome, so maybe I should have said Linear 
Equations or Calc II. I had foreign unintelligible mealy-mouthed cut-rate 
TAs teaching those classes. Puh. I'd have taken an PLATO terminal ANY DAY 
over those guys since their content would have presumably been in the 
Queen's clear readable English.

Nowadays you have Khan Academy (go Khan!) and other places that have some 
pretty fabulous courses and content. Not to mention big unis doing 
open-courses. I think both MIT and Stanford have them. I've downloaded 
books and materials from the MIT Open Courseware. I also like to take or 
at least skim courses on things I'm not familiar with aimed at kids. They 
make a lot fewer assumptions. 

Motivation I've got. 40 extra hours a week for classes at a brick and 
mortar school, I sadly do not have (unless I want to lose some serious 
sleep). So, anything that bootstraps my knowledge in an area in a complete 
but as-I-get-time fashion, I'm 100% on board with. I also keep old CBT 
CDROMs and instructional DVDs for various things. They might be old, but 
they often have more content or did a better job with the illustrations or 
animations than you get on the web. 

Learning is great fun to me. School, uhh, not as much. However, I know 
some people find the collaboration, a live instructor, and friends they 
make in the social atmosphere to be invaluable for their learning and 
enthusiasm (which is a learning amplifier, IMHO). I also have to admit 
that I did learn quite a bit in "labs" for classes I had, especially 
Astronomy classes. The labs were what kindled a sense of wonder in me. So, 
learning comes in a constellation of formats. I personally just like the 
ones that are self-driven the best at this point.

I wonder what takes the place of things like PLATO nowadays. Probably a 
hodge-podge of PeeCee Windows apps and Adobe Flash/AIR apps, I'd guess. 
I'm not involved in any kind of formal education at this point, so I 
wouldn't know.


More information about the cctalk mailing list