Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Birth of "Avatars"

I could illustrate the entire book with video clips readily available on YouTube -- case in point: Chapter 24 ("Stay Small, Be the Best, and Don't Lose any Money") talks about Lucasfilm's new Games Group, and some of their experiments in applying technology to entertainment. A company called Quantum Computer Services asked Lucasfilm to develop some unique product that would utilize the new consumer modems and their online service. Remember, THIS is what online home computing was like in 1985 (watch 30 seconds and you'll get the idea):



Chip Morningstar came up with a new kind of game, one where people online had a virtual character in the game, which he called an "avatar." The community he created was Lucasfilm's HABITAT, and it represents the original MMORPG. Here is a promo tape of Habitat (1986) put online by another Lucasfilm alum, and online community pioneer Randy Farmer:



Quantum didn't stick with Habitat, but a few years later, they changed their name to AOL (America Online). Morningstar, while perhaps best known for this pioneering work, teamed up with another Lucasfilm Games alum Doug Crockford, and developed JSON - key software for stuff that makes webpages cool. Here's Chip's website.

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