[SIGCIS-Members] Isaacson

Brian Dear brian at platohistory.org
Mon Jun 22 13:21:45 PDT 2015

Portions of the book may be, but Isaacson's glaring omission of *any* mention, in Chapter Ten (“Online”) or anywhere in the book for that matter, of the PLATO system, its thriving online community, and the level of sophistication PLATO people had reached as early as ’73-’74 is inexcusable and for me utterly unforgivable. 

It’s nothing new, the inadvertent and, face it, sometimes deliberate omission of PLATO. Pretty much every single book in the “vast array of historical books on the history of digital technology” has also omitted PLATO. It is in my opinion one of the greatest mysteries of the history of technology.  The repeated omission, year after year, article after article, book after book, conference after conference, has become the norm.  Indeed, to bring up PLATO nowadays is to not be taken seriously.  Nevertheless, there it is, this huge gap in the historical timeline, this elephant in the room. It’d be like if one of the forty-four U.S. Presidents was never mentioned, had no biographies or presidential library, was never brought up in conversation or in the media, and this had gone on so long that nobody ever thought that it was the slightest bit odd and to dare to mention it was considered rude.

In Isaacson’s case, the omission of PLATO is particularly infuriating because he and his publisher try very hard to pass their book off as the definitive chronicle of how “digital culture” came into being. To watch the recent YouTube video of him being interviewed by John Hollar, CEO of the Computer History Museum, and neither of them ever mentioning PLATO (when in reality CHM was the venue for my two-day PLATO at 50 conference in 2010 that Hollar was very much a part of) is just surreal.

Suffice to say, I am doing my part to right this wrong by writing a book on the big sprawling crazy history of the PLATO system — I’ve spent years on it — and if it winds up prompting a bunch of publishers and historians to revise their work and rethink the way things happened in computing, well, I reckon my effort will have been worth it. Stay tuned.

- Brian

Brian Dear
PLATO History Project
Santa Fe, NM
brian at platohistory.org <mailto:brian at platohistory.org>

> On Jun 9, 2015, at 9:45 AM, Daniel Ferrell <returnofjayhawk at hotmail.com> wrote:
> SIGCIS members,
>    I have recently began reading Walter Isaacson's The Innovators chronicling the history of the digital revolution. In a vast array of historical books on the history of digital technology, do you feel Isaacson's contribution is legitimate? 
> -Daniel Ferrell
> Home Acceptance Corporation (NMLS #1151715). 
> 65 S. Outer Rd.
> P.O. Box 72
> Benton, MO 63736
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