Thomas Cherryhomes will be speaking at the Vintage Computer Festival East, in New Jersey, on May 18th, to show off IRATA.ONLINE at 3:20pm Eastern Time. There will be an introduction, a demonstration, and Q&A period.
IRATA.ONLINE user jthiele / atari will be present at Classic Game Fest in Austin, Texas on July 27th and 28th, 2018 to demonstrate the service. An Atari 800XL will be available as a terminal for interested people, running a demonstration that can be interrupted at any point to sign up for the service.
IRATA.ONLINE is provided for the benefit of retro-computing users to have a place to socialize, and develop interesting multi-user, interactive, and graphical games and social applications. It descends from the historical PLATO system, a massive time-sharing system that lasted from 1962 until NovaNET was closed in 2015. Wikipedia entry.
It is vital that communities grow, and to that end, IRATA.ONLINE is part of a rebirth of the PLATO system that started with the launching of Cyber1.org in 2004, and is the direct result of the efforts of that community to provide a distribution of the PLATO system that could be run on other systems. IRATA.ONLINE was initially intended to provide users of Atari 8-bit computer systems a customized experience that was easy to use. It is hoped that with the introduction of more PLATO terminals for other platforms that IRATA.ONLINE's reach can extend even further.
Where will it go? Who knows. This is an experiment to provide something better than a BBS, by making something that is not only multi-user, but provides a complete social development experience for its users.
IRATA.ONLINE is a PLATO based system, which has the following pervasive features:
If you have a PC or Mac that is already internet connected, all you need is the PTERM software, available from Cyber1.org
(Linux binary builds coming soon. Setting up Package Repositories!)
If you have an Atari 8-bit computer, you will need:
We not only provide a complete protocol specification, but also two complete implementations in C, as well as the source code to the above Atari PLATO cartridge.
More details in the TECH section.
To connect to IRATA.ONLINE, use the following connection information:
Shown here is a video providing an overview of IRATA.ONLINE, and its most basic and pervasive features. We log onto the system using both the PTERM and Atari clients, and walk through the various menus, showing quickly how notes (and personal notes) work, as well as show a quick glance of the games available, and a quick introduction to the unique programming environment available on PLATO systems.
The Protocol that IRATA.ONLINE uses is an ASCII based protocol developed for PLATO. it is ASCII in that it uses 7-bit characters and does not use the 8th bit of the byte. The protocol is completely documented in the "s0ascers" document, provided both below and accessible using either author mode or Go in the menu system. If you wish to make terminal software to access this service, this document is most useful.
To help foster adoption of the service, alongside the protocol implementation documentation above, and the pterm source code, also above. Steve Peltz also provided example implementations of a classic 68K Macintosh terminal (MacPAD) and a Sun SPARC terminal (XPad), both of these are sample implementations written in easy to understand C, that can be brought over to bootstrap other terminal program efforts. A big thank you to Steve Peltz.
While not needed, it is possible for PLATO terminals to receive code from IRATA and execute it locally, possibly while interacting with code running on IRATA. A Micro Tutor interpreter exists within PTerm 6.0, and thus can be used to run Micro-Tutor lessons, and with appropriate implementations on other processors (6502, 6809, 68000, etc.), Micro-TUTOR could be extended to a wide variety of retro-computing systems. Source code in assembly for the Z80 Micro-Tutor interpreter is below:
IRATA.ONLINE like all PLATO systems, utilizes the TUTOR language for the majority of its programs and lessons. It is a very simple language to learn, and is designed to leverage the unique aspects of the service. The editor, debugger, and visual editors needed to make excellent programs for this service, are all built in, and available to users that ask for an Author sign-on.
There is also the =0introtut= lesson available from the Help menu and in author mode, as well as the =aids= lesson, which serves as a reference guide.
In addition, the fine folks at bitsavers.org and control-data.info provided a copy of The Tutor Language in PDF format, so you can teach yourself TUTOR quickly!