Talkomatic: the first chat in computer history

Taking advantage of all the abundance of technologies that surrounds us at the moment, we do not even think how old they are. After all, the first chat will soon turn 50 years.

Published by Roman Vasilyev at 08/08/2017

Approximately in 1973, the computer program Talkomatic was created, which allowed in those years to communicate with thousands of terminals of the mainframe PLATO with each other.

Chat Talkomatic is a special chat, which greatly facilitated the exchange of text messages between small groups of people in real time. The main feature of this chat was that each of the participants in the conversation had their own section of the screen, and messages were transmitted as they entered, literally one letter at a time.

From the very beginning of its introduction, Talkomatic was a multi-user system that was created by Doug Brown or David Woolley. Place of origin - University of Illinois. Initially, 6 channels were proposed, each could be used by five participants at once. Chat Talkomatic spawned a huge online community that lasted until about the mid-1980s.

From the very beginning of its appearance PLATO functioned on the computers of the ILLIAC I model, and in the late 70s of the last century this system consisted of at least a couple of thousands of terminals that were located in different parts of the world. Also, the system included dozens of mainframes that were connected by a common computer network. The system itself was developed (like the world’s first chat) at the University of Illinois, and was used for about forty years. The goal of the program was to facilitate the implementation of any coursework by students from some universities in Illinois, as well as local students and students of other universities. Today, there are several functioning systems that are descendants of the PLATO system.

In September 2014, another application was launched, which was named after the famous Talkomatic. If you believe the top chats , then the application for smartphones called Ray Ozzie’s smartphone app was one of the reminders about the existence of the chat Talkomatic not yielding to the popularity and chats roulette .


The e-learning system PLATO, developed by Control Data Corporation. It was here that we were engaged in the production of computers on which the system operated. The president of this company and did believe that the PLATO system will be able to become the most important force in the computer world, but the output of this system on the market was not sufficiently successful. The latest version of the functioning system was turned off in 2006. It happened just one month after the death of company president William Norris. Despite the fact that the project was not commercially successful, it was during the functioning of the PLATO system that concepts such as forum, email and chat, instant messages, remote desktop and much more, including online testing, appeared.

Important note: it was for computers that function on the PLATO system that the very first game with 3D graphics was created. Also at this time for the system were adapted well-known computer games.

The PLATO system terminals have been constantly improved, so they evolved as other computer components developed, primarily microprocessors. With every new generation of PLATO computers (just 4 generations of this system), more and more new opportunities have appeared.

In 1975, this system served about 150 places, which included not only users of the system, but also various educational institutions (gymnasiums, colleges, lyceums and universities), as well as military facilities of the US Army. Already in those years with the help of these computers you could see not only the text, but also graphics or computer animation. There was also a shared memory mechanism that allowed (using the programming language) to transfer information between different users of the system in real time. It was not only convenient, but also extremely effective, because in this way it was possible to save a large amount of free time.

Gradually, this led to the creation of a program for chat, and later to create the very first multiplayer simulator of the aircraft.

The main goal of the system was to make universal computer learning available to the widest possible range of people. Despite this, the cost of the system was still too high, so it could be acquired mainly by educational institutions, rather than private individuals.