The Friendly Orange Glow

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The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture

Friendly Orange Glow, The - Hardcover - USA - 1st edition.jpg

Hardcover - USA - 1st edition.

Author Brian Dear
Published 2017-11-14
Type Non-fiction
Genre Educational, Memoir
Themes Computers, Electronics, Engineering
Age Group Adult

The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture is a non-fiction book about the PLATO computer platform written by Brian Dear and published on 2017-11-14. It serves as a historical look at the system and includes memoirs of the various people involved in designing it.


Read?Audiobook read by George Newbern.

While researching the earliest video games, I noticed that many of the most impressive looking ones were made for the PLATO system. This made me eager to learn more about the system which led me to finding and reading this book.





  • Hearing about how PLATO pioneered several technologies that weren't even considered at the time (flat-screen plasma touch screens in the 1970s), or that other computer scientists claimed were completely impossible (thousands of simultaneously connected users), was really helpful at illustrating just how far ahead of its time the PLATO system was.
  • I was surprised to hear that several people who went on to become professional video game developers, like Silas Warner and Brodie Lockard, were all involved in the early PLATO system, and how famous titles like Shanghai, Freecell, and Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord were all directly inspired from previous PLATO games.


  • A lot of the book goes into too much irrelevant backstory. Some of it is at least tangential to PLATO, like the entire chapter on psychologist BF Skinner, but other portions were totally unrelated, like the long description of a ship wreck. Also, there are long sprawling quotations taken directly from stories written on PLATO by students back in the 1970s which I didn't find interesting at all. If about a fifth of the book was removed, I think the reader would still be just as informed about PLATO.
  • It's minor, but the audiobook reader mispronounces id Software as "eye-dee software."


  • Nothing.