I was alerted to the presence online of a transcript of an “online computer conference” I organized in late 1973 when I was a professor at Northwestern University, and running my project called Computers And Teaching [CAT]. Murray Turoff, who was with the (US) Office of Emergency Preparedness had been running conferences limited to government participants, and Bob Johansen (while a graduate student) and I got the idea of doing a conference that would combine physical presence and remote presence, which we held in November, 1973. The PLATO-IV system, of course, had included its own internal online conferencing (serving maybe a couple thousand people at the time), but that was limited to people with PLATO terminals. Our goal was to expand conferencing well beyond that group by using an interactive system I had built.
Online_Computer_Conference_in_1973 (PDF) contains the transcript of this 1973 online conference. (The PDF has been saved in the ERIC system for 43 years. Thank goodness for government-sponsored ed research archives.) If you notice the timestamps on the messages, some interchanges were in real time and many were asynchronous. The time-independence of the conference did actually confuse some of the participants because it was such a new concept. (And I had not implemented many of the commonsense conference components you’d find in a modern system.) [Read more…]