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May 25, 2010

Who were you friending in 1973

It’s the 50th anniversary of what became, arguably, the first digital social networking tool, PLATO. In its honor, the PlatoHistory site has posted a list of what some of the current Big Names in computers were doing when PLATO Notes, its message board, went live. There’s also a free conference, with Donald Bitzer and Ray Ozzie keynoting; Bitzer created PLATO and Ozzie founded Lotus Notes which was originally modeled on Plato notes.

(For the record: in 1973, I was spending a year between college and grad school, being a handyman, writing badly, and pining. And you?)


July 12, 2008

Plato and chat

Im reading Julian Warners “From Writing to Computers,” published in 1994. In a wonderful chapter he looks at the senses in which the Western tradition thought documents contained or were intelligent — written documents “appear to understand what they are saying,” Plato says. Warner looks carefully at Platos Phaedrus, a seminal text for those concerned with the transition from oral to written cultures. Thats the one where Plato worries that the onset of written documents will ruin human memory: Those who acquire the skill of writing “will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of on their own internal resources.”

Plato has another complaint: Writings cant respond to questions: “writing involves a similar disadvantage to painting. The productions of paintings look like living beings, but if you ask them a question they maintain a solemn silence.” Ive taken these quotes from Plato from Warner pp. 58-59.

Makes you wonder what Plato would have made of chat, IM, and SMS.