Jump to content
DarkLord

Atari's Plato Cartridge question

Recommended Posts

They really had such a beautiful focus on "TEACHING" people through this system, it's astounding, and the level of integration is something sorely missing even from most of today's software.

 

There are all sorts of neat things to love about the system! (Content, graphics, multiuser experience.) Sadly, I can see why there was some controversy inside of Atari on releasing a client.

 

When I use the system, I see (and constantly bump into) two things which I believe held it back from gaining popularity. They both revolve around navigation:

 

Any kind of simple menu-based hierarchy would have been a total improvement on navigation (even if you kept the shortcuts to jump to specific content). Knowing where you are, what specifically you can do, being able to exit back up to a higher level. All of that is missing, and when it is missing, it makes it harder for the average person to wrap their head around how to move around in the system and have it perform different functions (both minor and major). I'm reminded of a simple 80s BBS. Even if you logged onto a brand new piece of BBS software which you never saw before, it wasn't hard to get the general idea of what was going on. A BBS might be considered "easy to learn, difficult to master". PLATO just isn't easy to learn... and the added navigational complexity (in itself) really didn't yield superior results, IMHO.

 

The second navigational issue is in user input and selections. Having a BACK key is fine. Even if the system evolved from an educational perspective, having a LAB key, DATA key, STOP key, SUB key (etc, etc) is confusing. (You don't need a LAB key to have lab material, just like my Atari doesn't need a GAME key to play a game.) Having a SHIFT-BACK, SHIFT-LAB, and SHIFT-DATA (etc, etc) key seems totally arbitrary to a new user and lacks any intrinsic meaning. There would have been absolutely no way that I would ever convince a non-technical family memory to use those special keys, much less the shifted version of them, much less to remember when they were appropriately used in what context.

 

I don't blame them for having an educational focus. I don't blame them for evolving from a 1960s system. But I kind of blame them for not updating their interface and bringing it into modern times if not for the singular goal of making the system less hostile and more neutral to new users. If they could (somehow, magically) rework the interface into a standard menu hierarchy, and reduce (or remove) the reliance on special function keys (even more so on shifted special function keys), the system would have been attractive to a far greater set of users. That holds true, even today.

 

Actually, if someone directly updated the interface (or put a wrapper around it), I think they'd see higher levels of participation. I just wish they would have reached that conclusion back in the day. :(

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sigh, :)

 

Well, you're basing your criticism on the fact that you're using the system in AUTHOR mode.

 

This was a mode made for people writing TUTOR lessons.

 

Students, had menu based systems which allowed them to navigate to specific lessons (they were called routers.)

 

As for the secondary keys, Everybody was evolving the very concept of user interaction, and NOBODY knew what to do. I've used ALL of the early user interface systems (INCLUDING Engelbart's seminal NLS), and everybody had their own way of doing things.

 

The issue ultimately became how to make such improvements forward-compatible, every lesson needed to be able to run on the hardware that came before it, so trying to change the basic navigational principles of the system became harder to do as more people used the system. This is true of any paradigm today, please try to look outside of your own frame of reference.

 

-Thom

 

Also, please don't infer things that weren't true: There was no controversy on releasing the PLATO client. The project was started due to the connections between Atari and Control Data (the head of the personal computer division literally came from Control Data), but it languished because multiple implementations needed to be worked out. There was also almost a two year delay in releasing the cartridge, due to the Tramiel take-over.

Edited by tschak909
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

as stated a student not only would be in the sand box of a menu system but would also be able to pop in and out of most thing where they left off by using DATA, LAB, NOTE, TALK, etc. unlike a standard BBS where you must follow the hierarchy in a linear fashion with some short cuts. The PLATO system is more like a grouping or star topography and you can jump from the center of each of these to do multiple things or lessons or subjects, even games, depending on how you manage your terminal.. The teacher can watch your screen remotely or you can share your screen with someone. You have a bit more power in author or teacher mode and are seeing stuff from the gritty side of PLATO, much like a sysop spends his time at the command prompt when he's logged on popping directly to everything... 1 because he knows where it is, 2 because it is a faster and direct way of getting things done.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This has been really cool to watch. I kinda want to get involved.

Currently, I don't have an 850 setup though. Would this setup work with the patched ROM and an SIO2PC with APE (or similar software)? If not, I'll need to track down an 850. I have everything else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is why we are disassembling the cartridge, because we want to make it possible to add support for the other interfaces. The issue being that the Learning Phone cartridge causes the 850 load its bootstrap handler. I don't know if APE can handle this, as I do not have a setup to test.

 

In the mean-time, you can also test this in Altirra using the instructions earlier in the thread, and you should probably get a copy of PTERM at cyber1.org for your main computer, as it's good for comparison.

 

As it takes 24 hours typically to get a new signon, it's a good idea to go ahead and get signed up. :)

 

-Thom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sigh, icon_smile.gif

 

Well, you're basing your criticism on the fact that you're using the system in AUTHOR mode.

This was a mode made for people writing TUTOR lessons.

 

Yes. And No! There is the whole student/author aspect, but that's not entirely at play here.

Here is a cut-and-paste from The Learning Phone manual from Atari.

I'm also basing the criticism on what Atari users were expected to do:

 

post-18231-0-05891700-1518120064_thumb.png

 

That is what Atari's manual said that hobbyists and consumers needed to do in order to use the system. Now, you might be able to say that they needed the special keys for advanced features. But even the simple 8-bit message boards of the period offered an interface that was much easier to use, and without the fantastic key combos. And even while doing a less advanced function, like reading a message, the user interaction was completely wrong:

 

post-18231-0-24031200-1518121406.png

 

This is something that I would expect technical users to puzzle over the necessity for. This is also not something that I would expect any non-technical family member to be capable of. And it really is too bad.

 

Putting the message interface and features to the side, when I look at what PLATO was capable of, it had the capability of producing a display and accepting user input in a manner that was both friendly and advanced. (You see a twinkle of that inside of some the games.) From a broader perspective, though, I'm thinking of something close to an early Prodigy, which they just almost had.

 

Prodigy was bent towards a wider audience and was far more successful among hobbyists/consumers than PLATO for reasons that went beyond placement and promotion. With a tiny bit of investment into the interface on CDC's side to match Atari's investment, they could have had a killer online service. Who knows? The idea might not have even of crossed their minds. But my ten year old self would have been pointing out the unnecessary complexity (from a user's point of view).

 

Also, please don't infer things that weren't true: There was no controversy on releasing the PLATO client. The project was started due to the connections between Atari and Control Data (the head of the personal computer division literally came from Control Data), but it languished because multiple implementations needed to be worked out. There was also almost a two year delay in releasing the cartridge, due to the Tramiel take-over.

 

I'll go ahead and snag a cut-and-paste from ANTIC:

 

The PLATO project at Atari was started in 1981 by Lane Winner. He wrote a working PLATO emulator (Version 1) that was strictly 300 baud, and displayed only one segment of the PLATO screen at any given time. Vince then worked with Joe Miller on Version B of the terminal-emulator program, which was presented to Control Data Corporation (CDC) in December of 1981. According to Wu, this was the first time a microcomputer was used to access the CDC PLATO system.

By early 1983, however, negotiations between CDC and Atari had broken down, and PLATO emulator project at Atari was -- temporarily, it turned out -- dead. Due to Vince's concerted efforts, which included many hours of work on his own time, Atari's top management decided to give the project another chance. As a result, Vince was the sole designer of Version 3 of Atari's PLATO access software, and was instrumental in the negotiations that brought CDC and Atari back together on the project.

 

It looks like the project began in 1981. From the description, the original author had a simple (almost proof-of-concept?) version, and then they collaborated on an improved version by the end of that year. The status of the project was not specified in 1982, but it did not go into production. In 1983, the project was dead due to 'broken down negotiations'. (Did Atari expect a cut of the hourly rate? Did they want reimbursement for development costs? Did they want CDC to develop some features on their end? Did Atari perceive quality and/or usability issues? Yeah, I read into that a bit more than what was explicitly stated.) It says that Vincent got Atari's management to give it another chance, he designed a new version of the software, and he brought CDC and Atari back together on the project

 

You're right, it doesn't state a very explicit reason for why the project died before Vincent worked his magic. If Vincent Wu is still around to provide a first-hand account, I'd love to see Kevin explore some of these issues.

 

As for the secondary keys, Everybody was evolving the very concept of user interaction, and NOBODY knew what to do. I've used ALL of the early user interface systems (INCLUDING Engelbart's seminal NLS), and everybody had their own way of doing things.

 

So you go on to accuse me personally of being fixed in my own personal frame-of-reference, and I think that's completely unfair. What you then accuse me of not understanding is the very thing that I acknowledged, right? Backing up for a second, I recognize that I am offering some critique of the PLATO system, but it is not a personal attack on you. Actually, I'd even say it is constructive criticism because I think they they could actually address these issues today. (Although I completely understand, today, that historical preservation is now a far greater priority than usability.)

 

Back to the frame-of-reference question and understanding that they began in a period of uncertainty in computer/human intereaction, I had directly addressed that when I said: "I don't blame them for having an educational focus. I don't blame them for evolving from a 1960s system. But I kind of blame them for not updating their interface and bringing it into modern times if not for the singular goal of making the system less hostile and more neutral to new users."

 

The frame of reference should be that they evolved from an uncertain 1960s concept, and when notions of user interface and design had continued to move forward, their system did not. While they may have puzzled over these questions in the 1960s, by that time, it was the 1980s, and answers (even agreement) on some user interface issues were a lot clearer to the world as a whole.

 

Perhaps my personal frame of reference neglected to account for the fact that they were locked into the legacy of a 1960s paradigm, unable to escape? Well, I didn't do a deep-dive into that aspect of it, but I touched on it: "...I kind of blame them for not updating their interface and bringing it into modern times if not for the singular goal of making the system less hostile and more neutral to new users." "Actually, if someone directly updated the interface (or put a wrapper around it), I think they'd see higher levels of participation."

 

Was PLATO content so deeply tied into the myriad of special keys and shift combinations that the underlying content couldn't escape? Was this the only way that the public and private notes could be interfaced? Was there no way to write a user-friendly wrapper around it? If the vendor refused to migrate people to a new interface, could existing lessons be programmatically updated to remove complexity? (Yes, I can freely acknowledge that no programmatic conversion would have been 100%.)

 

I won't accuse you of being locked into the frame-of-reference of what is placed before you. I think we both can acknowledge that then (just as much as today) there were a myriad of different ways to reduce or remove the complex user interactions. The message board is the easiest example of something that would have benefited from a simple wrapper. PLATO (and the content it hosted) could still be PLATO without SUB and SHIFT-DATA keystrokes.

 

I like PLATO, and I hope you don't take it as a personal attack when I critique something which you also like. I think that it (then as much as today) been made much simpler to use without making large sacrifices. But back in the day, they could have been PRODIGY before there was a PRODIGY.

 

Bringing PLATO to consumers was a two-way street. Users had to go to PLATO (which the Atari cart provided) but PLATO had to go to the users (which so far I haven't seen any historical evidence that PLATO did in any real measure). It is unfortunate because it could have been something far more than it was, but it wasn't a hard technological limit that kept it from coming true.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now I finally have a reason to use this:

 

post-3959-0-65305800-1518126404_thumb.jpg

 

Hopefully I can get a chance to dig through my boxes of Atari stuff and see if there is anything else. The cart came from an eBay auction of long ago.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Yes. And No! There is the whole student/author aspect, but that's not entirely at play here.

Here is a cut-and-paste from The Learning Phone manual from Atari.

I'm also basing the criticism on what Atari users were expected to do:

 

attachicon.gifnotes.png

 

That is what Atari's manual said that hobbyists and consumers needed to do in order to use the system. Now, you might be able to say that they needed the special keys for advanced features. But even the simple 8-bit message boards of the period offered an interface that was much easier to use, and without the fantastic key combos. And even while doing a less advanced function, like reading a message, the user interaction was completely wrong:

 

attachicon.gifnotes2.png

 

This is something that I would expect technical users to puzzle over the necessity for. This is also not something that I would expect any non-technical family member to be capable of. And it really is too bad.

 

Putting the message interface and features to the side, when I look at what PLATO was capable of, it had the capability of producing a display and accepting user input in a manner that was both friendly and advanced. (You see a twinkle of that inside of some the games.) From a broader perspective, though, I'm thinking of something close to an early Prodigy, which they just almost had.

 

Prodigy was bent towards a wider audience and was far more successful among hobbyists/consumers than PLATO for reasons that went beyond placement and promotion. With a tiny bit of investment into the interface on CDC's side to match Atari's investment, they could have had a killer online service. Who knows? The idea might not have even of crossed their minds. But my ten year old self would have been pointing out the unnecessary complexity (from a user's point of view).

 

 

I'll go ahead and snag a cut-and-paste from ANTIC:

 

The PLATO project at Atari was started in 1981 by Lane Winner. He wrote a working PLATO emulator (Version 1) that was strictly 300 baud, and displayed only one segment of the PLATO screen at any given time. Vince then worked with Joe Miller on Version B of the terminal-emulator program, which was presented to Control Data Corporation (CDC) in December of 1981. According to Wu, this was the first time a microcomputer was used to access the CDC PLATO system.

By early 1983, however, negotiations between CDC and Atari had broken down, and PLATO emulator project at Atari was -- temporarily, it turned out -- dead. Due to Vince's concerted efforts, which included many hours of work on his own time, Atari's top management decided to give the project another chance. As a result, Vince was the sole designer of Version 3 of Atari's PLATO access software, and was instrumental in the negotiations that brought CDC and Atari back together on the project.

 

It looks like the project began in 1981. From the description, the original author had a simple (almost proof-of-concept?) version, and then they collaborated on an improved version by the end of that year. The status of the project was not specified in 1982, but it did not go into production. In 1983, the project was dead due to 'broken down negotiations'. (Did Atari expect a cut of the hourly rate? Did they want reimbursement for development costs? Did they want CDC to develop some features on their end? Did Atari perceive quality and/or usability issues? Yeah, I read into that a bit more than what was explicitly stated.) It says that Vincent got Atari's management to give it another chance, he designed a new version of the software, and he brought CDC and Atari back together on the project

 

You're right, it doesn't state a very explicit reason for why the project died before Vincent worked his magic. If Vincent Wu is still around to provide a first-hand account, I'd love to see Kevin explore some of these issues.

 

 

So you go on to accuse me personally of being fixed in my own personal frame-of-reference, and I think that's completely unfair. What you then accuse me of not understanding is the very thing that I acknowledged, right? Backing up for a second, I recognize that I am offering some critique of the PLATO system, but it is not a personal attack on you. Actually, I'd even say it is constructive criticism because I think they they could actually address these issues today. (Although I completely understand, today, that historical preservation is now a far greater priority than usability.)

 

Back to the frame-of-reference question and understanding that they began in a period of uncertainty in computer/human intereaction, I had directly addressed that when I said: "I don't blame them for having an educational focus. I don't blame them for evolving from a 1960s system. But I kind of blame them for not updating their interface and bringing it into modern times if not for the singular goal of making the system less hostile and more neutral to new users."

 

The frame of reference should be that they evolved from an uncertain 1960s concept, and when notions of user interface and design had continued to move forward, their system did not. While they may have puzzled over these questions in the 1960s, by that time, it was the 1980s, and answers (even agreement) on some user interface issues were a lot clearer to the world as a whole.

 

Perhaps my personal frame of reference neglected to account for the fact that they were locked into the legacy of a 1960s paradigm, unable to escape? Well, I didn't do a deep-dive into that aspect of it, but I touched on it: "...I kind of blame them for not updating their interface and bringing it into modern times if not for the singular goal of making the system less hostile and more neutral to new users." "Actually, if someone directly updated the interface (or put a wrapper around it), I think they'd see higher levels of participation."

 

Was PLATO content so deeply tied into the myriad of special keys and shift combinations that the underlying content couldn't escape? Was this the only way that the public and private notes could be interfaced? Was there no way to write a user-friendly wrapper around it? If the vendor refused to migrate people to a new interface, could existing lessons be programmatically updated to remove complexity? (Yes, I can freely acknowledge that no programmatic conversion would have been 100%.)

 

I won't accuse you of being locked into the frame-of-reference of what is placed before you. I think we both can acknowledge that then (just as much as today) there were a myriad of different ways to reduce or remove the complex user interactions. The message board is the easiest example of something that would have benefited from a simple wrapper. PLATO (and the content it hosted) could still be PLATO without SUB and SHIFT-DATA keystrokes.

 

I like PLATO, and I hope you don't take it as a personal attack when I critique something which you also like. I think that it (then as much as today) been made much simpler to use without making large sacrifices. But back in the day, they could have been PRODIGY before there was a PRODIGY.

 

Bringing PLATO to consumers was a two-way street. Users had to go to PLATO (which the Atari cart provided) but PLATO had to go to the users (which so far I haven't seen any historical evidence that PLATO did in any real measure). It is unfortunate because it could have been something far more than it was, but it wasn't a hard technological limit that kept it from coming true.

 

You missed the point of what I was saying. As somebody who has worked on and guided systems that start small, grow, and become used by lots of people, I can tell you that you get locked into decisions, especially when compatibility with the existing system is important. In this case, it was the intersection of the early ideas of the user interface, with the insane amounts of content ultimately created. You could not change this for new terminals without changing all the existing content.

 

Your criticisms are valid, and were brought up AS OTHER SYSTEMS THAT WERE NOT PLATO SYSTEMS JOINED THE NETWORK, which did not have the special keys.

 

There were over tens of thousands of pieces of content that existed by the time PLATO extended themselves beyond their terminals, were they supposed to change or add additional layers of complexity as new terminals emerged? This is untenable. I can tell you this from actual experience. Creating wrappers around existing content only works when you take a lowest common denominator approach, otherwise you create an n^p hard problem of mapping differences between terminals and making sure that what you make not only works on new terminals, but the old ones as well.

 

PRODIGY that you speak of, was based on NAPLPS, and specifically a terminal design that was extremely simple, with chicklet keyboard terminals that had less than 49 keys, barely enough to have both numbers and letters...they did not have facilities for many of the advanced features that PLATO relies on for user input, among many other things...

 

It may sound simple to you, but as somebody who spent a significant chunk of his career wrapping legacy systems, this is more difficult than it first appears.

 

This is the paradox of innovation. You can either solve big problems, or small ones. If you're starting over, you never solve the larger problems, and if you're constantly building on the larger systems, you miss the small problems. I have hit this paradox consistently in over 30+ years of hacking, and it's why PLATO as it is, is just as valid as something totally new.

With ALL of this said, if you know of a way to overcome these issues without sacrificing the use of most of the content? Then do it. :)

 

(p.s. I know your arguments, because I made them on PLATO as well, long ago.) :)

 

-Thom

Edited by tschak909

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You missed the point of what I was saying. As somebody who has worked on and guided systems that start small, grow, and become used by lots of people, I can tell you that you get locked into decisions, especially when compatibility with the existing system is important. In this case, it was the intersection of the early ideas of the user interface, with the insane amounts of content ultimately created. You could not change this for new terminals without changing all the existing content.

 

It may sound simple to you, but as somebody who spent a significant chunk of his career wrapping legacy systems, this is more difficult than it first appears.

 

Actually, the point was easily understood. By me, at least. I've even been known to say the same to others.

 

I have my own share of small corporate systems (along with outside systems brought in through acquisitions) which have grown into monsters that support billions of dollars in annual revenue. I regularly receive recognition for systems with intuitive functions that precisely target the needs of our internal customers, and for the refresh of legacy systems that minimize user impact in unanticipated ways. Now, I'm not mentioning these things to start a resume' contest, but to share just how much the user experience is a strong topic with me. Do programmers and architects paint themselves into corners, some easily forseen and others placed around them after the fact? Myself included? Absolutely.

 

But I don't think the educational content is locked that tightly into PLATO's scheme in such a way that it couldn't survive with simplified inputs.

 

If the point of Atari's PLATO cartridge wasn't to let Atari users experience the educational, entertainment, and interactive content of PLATO, then that should have been one of Atari's major considerations. At that time (when one was trying to convince people that computers were easy to use) "an authentic PLATO experience" is something that would have seen far greater returns the more it was factored away. The deep content is something that would have been amplified to the degree that it was easy to access. An unpolished gem makes for a close analogy of what PLATO was at that time.

 

When it came to the user interface, technological leadership was key. Usability should have been driven by the vendor. It wasn't, which is unfortunate. Could all of the content have been programmatically updated to a more modern interface? I'm asking with an absolute, so the answer should be apparent. Probably not. Yet there is so much that could have been done, and the per-item cost does not seem unwieldy. PLATO seems to have plenty of low-hanging fruit when it comes to usability. (The public notes are just too easy of an example. If CDC didn't develop an updated scheme for accessing public notes, I have to believe that they disagreed quite strongly with any of this. It would be interesting to know more of their perspective back in the day.)

 

From what I've seen so far of the content, I have to believe that there are ways that one could liberate from PLATO the full educational content from a lesson on the human eye without having to bring along an array of special and shifted keys. (Even with that reason aside, I still wouldn't mind reviewing the source for that or a similar lesson just for the edutainment purposes.) It is too easy for some to simply say "legacy" and leave it as that for the final reason for why important considerations remain sub-optimal. (When pressed, it is usually followed up by "you don't understand" and "it will cost too much". When pressed again, that's when we start to get the real details, which may have little to do with any of the last two reasons.) But I'm not about to go in and liberate legacy content from PLATO. I don't think my original message on the topic even skirted the idea.

 

(p.s. I know your arguments, because I made them on PLATO as well, long ago.) icon_smile.gif

 

Were either one of us so wrong?

As I originally mentioned, I wished that they reached that conclusion back in the day.

 

So I think I can still leave this with a TL;DNR of my original post on this matter:

  • PLATO is neat, but the legacy user interface holds it back. A tech refresh (or that failing, a wrapper over selected parts) would have yielded better returns in user participation back in the 1980s.

But I would add...

  • Don't let a START-S key combo scare you off. Plenty of good free content to explore, folks! (Educational, games, and social.)

What about cyber1? I'd say keep on trucking, as-is. Their recreation of the PLATO experience may just be far more valuable to the participants than the actual educational value of the training material contained within. For them, "legacy" actually is a more than acceptable answer.

 

With ALL of this said, if you know of a way to overcome these issues without sacrificing the use of most of the content? Then do it. icon_smile.gif

 

EDIT: Oh, I missed the dare!

 

Going back and looking at my original message that caught your attention, this is really is a long ways from where it was heading. (Gander back up for a story on interfaces, complexity, and participation.) But since we've driven down this road, I have to admit that you've steered me right into a curiosity. Intellectual property issues aside from the moment, have they actually explored exfiltrating the educational lesson data and presenting it elsewhere in a more modern form? Or is the very idea something that their community is morally opposed to, exponentially so from an outsider? You wouldn't try to steer me wrong, would you? icon_wink.gif

 

Convince me that they'd see such a person as a hero, and that job would practically sell itself.

Edited by jmccorm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't get all the hub bub...

The reason why the 'start key' is used for d*amn near everything is to allow the full use of every key and combo in you work, and that is indeed wide and varied.....

think of START as the I'm going to give a command key.

think of shift as I'm going to modify a command.

think of the rest of the keys (almost always the first letter of the desired command) as command you want key or selection key.

 

It really is, for the most part, pretty much that simple.

When it isn't it's clearly labeled as such and your told what to do on the screen a number of times. I find it easy to navigate once I follow the logic and flow of the system...

 

I blame the guide for making this unclear and showing shift of not shift before the start key and then the command letter in it's examples.

 

You can use the joystick to click on some stuff just click on the word 2nd or third letter is close enough seem to work.

 

This method made it possible for ALL machines to connect and make the magic happen, unlike today where there is like 3 browsers to choose from and if you wander from them the internet breaks in mysterious and wondrous ways. To be honest even they seem to fail with certain update and add ons.

Edited by _The Doctor__

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@16kRAM: can we shift over to the dis6502 disasm? Or have you already started commenting?

 

I'll make a Makefile to call atasm for it.

 

-Thom

 

I started working with the project's initial disassembly (tlp.asm) since it was the one used in the Makefile. My thinking was: since I am initially cleaning up data elements (character bitmaps and strings) my work could be used in either version.

 

This is likely a moot point. I think you've decided to remove the dis6502 code in your pull request.

 

- Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I seem to have stumbled upon a stress test for the Atari PLATO terminal. I wrote a quick TUTOR program that draws lines in a moire' pattern across the screen.

 

It works fantastically at 1200 baud.

 

At 2400, it drops lines..looks like it's saturating the buffer. ;)

 

giphy.gif

 

-Thom

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, there was no point to it. My sincerest apologies icon_smile.gif

 

WARNING: The link below contains a trigger warning for multiple audiences which may, from the outside, have no apparent connection to the topic at hand (until clicked through and examined in depth). This link does not violate AtariAge policy, however, it may still contain material which causes you some degree of personal distress. You have been warned.

 

Thom is being far too modest. He was, in fact, showing me a mercy.

 

The last outsider who spoke ill of PLATO was an intellectual who gave a quick twenty minute presentation at one of the the most obscure of academic conferences. The conference in question was sponsored by an equally obscure special interest group offshoot of a seldom-recognized international technical historical society. This verbal challenge, overlooked by most, was met with a extraordinarily vigorous defense in the form of a full 43 page rebuttal which challenged nearly every major point proffered by the academic researcher.

 

You and I might consider such a robust reply to be entirely excessive, but the voluminous defense of PLATO was not finished, as the author had only billed it as Part One of a Two-Part Series on the matter. Dr. Rankin, our hapless Yale alumni and author of the upcoming book, "You've Got Hate Mail" had no idea what she was in for when she challenged the reputation of PLATO and its users while attempting to make a larger point in her area of study.

 

For your protection, the exact nature of the affront and the nature of the rebuttal has been omitted from this message, as the entire topic that has a tendency to distress multiple socio-economic groups, and is by no means exclusive to PLATO or its users. Please be advised that if you click on the link, it may be to your own personal detriment, and you acknowledge that you were given plenty of advanced warning of this possible outcome.

 

This is, in fact, a cautionary tale. You should be aware that PLATO users do not take outside criticism lightly. Thom, in fact, has shown significant restraint in this matter, in deference to the fact that I am a fellow-member of the Atari community which he also participates in. Such an indulgence, however, cannot be expected to be offered for a second time. Everyone should be advised that while the PLATO community is a tight-nit bunch, they're more than willing to extend an appendage in friendship to new members from our community.

 

Should you have any historical observations or challenges regarding PLATO, you are well advised to show some restraint in this matter.

 

Thank you for your time,

jmccorm, PLATO Enthusiast

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

someone was talking about the character set, you can change and desing and load your own characters in PLATO itself and load them at will from you own lessons, It has it's own character editor... the Atari downloads them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can see the reply and why. Rankin Philosophy Doctorate... didn't realize those issue really didn't exist until the marketing campaigns by Nintendo in the their commercials much later. A very determined myopic view of mini studies are always done to take things out of context and quote the exceptions to the rule as if it were the rule. She didn't speak to the people themselves to know the true motivations and thoughts behind any of it drawing conclusions to support her arguments out of thin air. Had she actually spoke to the people in her 'study' she would not have been able to make such presentations. Very sad but typical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@jmccorm, trust me, I know.

 

As for the criticisms, this seems to be very much a symptom of a much larger intersection of social problems, all of which can be corrected.

 

It can be very embarrassing for me, as a socialist, to remind people that the mixture of historical social context and identity politics is insanely volatile; to remind others that take up social causes, that the human race never figures the big things out all at once, and only over a long time. So while fighting the good fight is necessary to move things forward, you can indeed pick the wrong fight.

 

The aforementioned critic falls into the trap of massive misunderstandings and a severe amount of confirmation bias, and as such her entire argument does not take into account that the sheer number of other genders who were participating in computing societies at the time were indeed lower than the cis male populations. Ok, great, the solution is to band together and bring more of a particular gender type into a group.

 

-Thom

 

(with that said, I do find it ironic as hell, given our back and forth) ;)

Edited by tschak909

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is ironically one of the best reasons to read or listen to "The Friendly Orange Glow" book. It gives a FANTASTIC background in the first part of the book over the different ideas that sprang up for education reform, and contrasts them, along with their respective acolytes.

 

It also spends the subsequent parts going into detail over PLATO culture, which give strong indicators as to why the aforementioned critic was 'triggered' :)

 

-Thom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One major difference between other contemporary systems and PLATO: It's handling of user input.

 

PLATO's hardware and software teams realized that instant response to input is PARAMOUNT; that if a user presses a key, or does a touch, it MUST immediately be responded to.

 

They dealt with this by making a very tight and efficient round trip protocol, in particular, input is scanned at EVERY POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY, and acted upon.

 

While you may have a buffer that is being output, you can press a key at any point while the output is being streamed, and the system is guaranteed to react. This is something that systems engineers forget about in user facing applications, even today.

 

-Thom

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As for the criticisms, this seems to be very much a symptom of a much larger intersection of social problems, all of which can be corrected. [ ... ] It can be very embarrassing for me, as a socialist, to remind people that the mixture of historical social context and identity politics is insanely volatile; to remind others that take up social causes, that the human race never figures the big things out all at once, and only over a long time.

[ ... ]

(with that said, I do find it ironic as hell, given our back and forth) icon_wink.gif

 

Thom,

 

I was disheartened to hear you say as much (and even more so when you disarm it again at a meta level), because I had already staged my next reply where I accuse you of thrusting a pillar of heteronomative computing power upon our collective need to fill our machines with new content. I guess I'll have to save it for some ongoing parody work.

 

One major difference between other contemporary systems and PLATO: It's handling of user input.

PLATO's hardware and software teams realized that instant response to input is PARAMOUNT; that if a user presses a key, or does a touch, it MUST immediately be responded to.

 

That makes some real sense. I was wondering as much while I was watching a video of a Trek type game at the Cyber1 site. It stood out for the amount of twitch-based user input that was going on. Let me find it...

 

https://youtu.be/vMPC1eG5cko

 

... of course, I make a number of assumptions, but that snappy of a response isn't something I would have seen on a generic campus UNIX server back in the day. (I do have to note that this is Cyber1's modern-day emulation, so I don't know how much faster than the norm it might be expected to behave, or if some additional performance tweaks were done before recording.)

 

In more recent times, I've had the timeslices of the scheduler adjusted on massively-multiuser midrange systems to favor interactive behavior (very short default time slices, and even shorter slices if their process blocked and left slices unused). Also had the stack immediately push out TCP/IP packets rather than trying to consolidate. Lots of default favor batch, and a few of the batch processes which were mixed in did suffer, but the users loved it. That kind of thing is far and away from the kind of default tuning you'd find on those machines, which speaks to a more 'middle of the road' configuration out of the box.

 

The Trek game (above) would have been a compelling as a single or multiuser 70s and 80s game. Switching gears, any other major genres make it over? Text (or text/graphical) adventures, perhaps?

 

-jmccorm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are more than a few different DND type games on cyber1, Moria comes to mind, as does camelot, avatar, etc.

 

Board games are available, a good chess game, checkers...

 

Panther is a good precursor to Battlezone...

 

Mazewar...

 

Moonwar...

 

Vegas (which is keno), there's also Solitaire and Freecell...

 

Of course, Crowther's Adventure was ported to tutor as 'adventure'

 

Literally just go down the games list in bigjump, there are 125 earmarked there.

 

-Thom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are more than a few different DND type games on cyber1, Moria comes to mind, as does camelot, avatar, etc.

Literally just go down the games list in bigjump, there are 125 earmarked there.

 

Since you're here, I did have one question for you that others may benefit from:

 

I've seen lots of content that had a fairly predictable name, but with the number 0 in front of it. Hypothetically, one might see '0blackjack' or '0moonbuggy'. What is the purpose of the zero? Is it a requirement for locally-generated content? Something to prevent name collisions with official media releases? Both or something else?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is something I don't know, and the system operators would be able to answer like Joe Stanton or early systems users like p konig.

 

-Thom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...