Donald Bitzer


Photo of Donald   Bitzer
Photo of Donald Bitzer



Introduction

Dr. Donald Bitzer, Distinguished University Research Professor - North Carolina State University, is known and celebrated for many things, but primarily the invention of the PLATO system and plasma displays.

Main Content

Don Bitzer saw a new way to aid education and learning through the use of innovative hardware and software in 1960. PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) was a computer-based, interactive communication system developed to connect a variety of students, instructors, and resources. It existed before the ARPANet and social media which would eventually have much in common in PLATO.

Don Bitzer is particularly known for the invention of the gas plasma display that was developed for PLATO. The addition of touch enabled more direct contact for the student. That ability and technology went on to create the gas plasma display industry. While PLATO’s goal was to improve interactivity, the television and monitor manufacturers were drawn to such displays to be thinner than conventional displays. In that regard, Educational Technology is like any other technology, advances in one field can have far greater impacts on other fields.

Don Bitzer is currently a Distinguished University Research Professor at North Carolina State University after having taught for several decades at the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois.

PLATO System

PLATO was a computer-based, interactive communication system developed to connect a variety of students, instructors, and resources. It existed before the ARPANet, with which it had much in common. Users could communicate with each other asynchronously via a Notes system.

Plasma Displays

The requirement for touch interactivity within PLATO led to the invention of plasma displays. This was a dramatic improvement over conventional keyboard interactions. The interactivity involved touch screens that allowed users to touch a word and learn more about it.

While the initial intent was enable an improved educational experience, the invention of the touch screens and plasma displays became a precursor to modern televisions and monitors.


References

Father of PLATO Discusses his work
PLATO History Foundation
National Inventors Hall of Fame Honoree Donald Bitzer (video)
Computer-Based Education (video)
Computer History Museum
Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Distinguished University Research Professor, North Carolina State University
iae-pedia
wikipedia




Miscellaneous