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The PLATO Hardware Restoration Project

Aaron Woolfson has for the past five years undertaken an amazing project: to acquire and restore -- not just clean up, but restore to original factory specifications -- a variety of original PLATO terminals from the 1970s. He's traveled all over the country, picked up parts here and there, and has even had custom parts made.

On January 20, I finally got to meet Aaron. We converged on the Computer History Museum so the museum folks could see a real working PLATO V terminal. The plan is to have, on hand at the conference about half-a-dozen PLATO terminals up and running and connected to the Cyber1.org service. Attendees will be able to try out the terminals and check out original PLATO applications including thousands of educational lessons ranging from anthropology to zoology, as well as the notesfiles, TERM-talk, and of course, PLATO's legendary multiplayer games.

Here are some photos of the terminal Aaron showed off at the museum:

PLATO V terminal restoration

What's especially cool is that Aaron has hacked together an interface such that the terminal thinks it's connected to a 1260-bps serial line, but in fact, is connected to the Internet which it then converts into the old 1260-bps serial signal. For the conference, he's building little interface boxes for each terminal such that all you have to do is plug the terminal into an ethernet cable connected to the Cyber1.org service on the Internet and you're all done.

 

Learn more about the upcoming book:

The Friendly Orange Glow: The Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, by Brian Dear

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