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[ih] We can hang up now, it's all done.

The SixRevisions article, as well as The Guardian's recent online  
coverage of the "history of the Internet", both get numerous things  
wrong.  The fundamental problem is that you can't do a "history of the  
Internet" and then talk about the earliest examples of various online  
phenomena, because many of the online firsts did NOT happen on the  
Internet or its precursors like ARPANET.

? "1979: MUD - The earliest form of multiplayer games"
This is simply wrong.   The PLATO system had a thriving community of  
game players and game developers who created multiplayer games years  
before "MUD" was developed.  "MUD" is in fact not even the first  
MUD.   A multiplayer spacewar game was developed by Rick Blomme on  
PLATO III around 1969.  Then on PLATO IV starting in 1972 a whole rash  
of multiplayer games popped up, like Dogfight, Fishwar, and other "big  
board" games (the whole notion of online multiplayer Big Boards, where  
you could go see who was waiting to play a game with you, started on  
PLATO).   In the following three years games became even more  
sophisticated, like the famous Airfight by Brand Fortner, a genuine  
shoot'em'up dogfight airplane game supporting 16 players, that was the  
inspiration for Bruce Artwick (both Fortner and Artwick attended the U  
of Illinois) who went on to create on of the biggest games in history  
--- Microsoft Flight Simulator.   Then there were a whole slew of  
mutliuser dungeon type games, including pedit5, oubliette, Avatar,  
Moria, Emprise, dnd, and so on.  None of it on Internet or ARPANET.

* 1978: The first bulletin board system
This may be technically true but it ignores the real point that in  
1973 the Institute for the Future had its FORUM system on ARPANET, and  
at the same time PLATO Notes came out, the a full-fledged message  
board system.  PLATO Notes inspired Ray Ozzie (now Chief Software  
Architect of Microsoft) to create Lotus Notes.

? 1982: The first emoticon.
The real history is that emoticons were far richer and more  
graphically complex BEFORE 1982.  It's one o those weird Darwinian  
twists, where the earlier organism was far more complex but lived in a  
single environment and couldn't exist anywhere but.  On PLATO, you  
could superimpose one typed character onto another, or even a bunch of  
characters, and in so doing create very sophisticated emoticons.  See platopeople.com/emoticons.html 
  for screen shots.

? 1985: Virtual communities
Way way inaccurate, and again, probably copied from The Guardian's  
piece which also pushed this myth.  The WELL (which I have been a  
member of since 1986) was a relative latecomer to the world of online  
communities if you compare it to PLATO, which in 1973 had notesfiles  
(message forums), chat rooms, and instant messaging.  The WELL  
wouldn't exist for another dozen years.

As for writing a dissertation on the development of online chat and  
IRC, if you want to be accurate you better include PLATO because it  
pre-dates AIM, IRC, and the Unix "talk" command.   Go research the  
history of PLATO's TERM-talk (1973) and Talk-o-Matic (1973) if you  
want to know about the earliest history of instant messaging and multi- 
user chat rooms.

- Brian

Brian Dear
PLATO History Project
La Jolla, California