PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations), a computer-based training ( CBT ) network developed in the 1960s, is often credited as the earliest example of a virtual community . Preceding both the Internet and the bulletin board system ( BBS ), PLATO was created by Professor Don Bitzer at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois and was further developed by other university faculty and students.
PLATO grew beyond the boundaries of its educational purposes: the system eventually featured the first versions of many now-common applications, including e-mail, groupware, instant messaging (IM), chat rooms, multimedia, and gaming programs. In the mid-1970s, Control Data Corporation (CDC) began to market PLATO commercially. The current software-based version of the system is available from PLATO Learning.