Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie was happy to talk about the history of computing Wednesday at a Silicon Valley event but did not want to talk about its future, as least as far as what Microsoft's plans might be pertaining to tablet computing.
Appearing at the PLATO@50 conference held to honor the PLATO (Programming Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) platform, Ozzie refused to respond to comments Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly made this week about devices such as Apple's iPad reducing the need for PCs. Ozzie declined to say what PC software king Microsoft's strategy would be in relation to tablets.
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"I would respond to that by saying this is great event, this is a tremendous event. I'm really glad to be here tonight. It's really about PLATO and it's about [PLATO founder Donald Bitzer, who was in attendance]," said Ozzie, who worked on PLATO and derived Lotus Notes from it.
The event, Ozzie stressed, was "not about Microsoft" and its plans.
Ozzie did cite how PLATO has benefitted Microsoft in his brief interview with InfoWorld, conducted after his public discussion about PLATO. "I can speak most directly to the fact that I believe the communication tools that were built on PLATO spread out into tools for computer-supported cooperative work, and systems such as [Microsoft] SharePoint are direct beneficiaries of that," he said.
PLATO is a computer-based teaching system that originated at the University of Illinois. It is credited with generating innovations such as plasma displays and social computing. Games were played on the system as well. The PLATO conference, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., is being held in recognition of the system's 50th anniversary.
Ozzie stressed the excitement PLATO generated from people who worked on it. "Many of us tried to recreate some of that excitement," Ozzie said. "Notes was something many people tried to recreate," based on what had been done with PLATO, he said.
Asked why PLATO is perhaps not as well-known as it might otherwise be, Bitzer cited the low-key approach to the project. "First of all, we did no advertising ourselves," he said.
Bitzer also lauded Apple's iPhone, calling it "amazing." "I have probably as much appreciation for that as anybody," Bitzer said.