Chip Morningstar

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Chip Morningstar
United States
EducationUniversity of Michigan
OccupationAuthor, Academic, Developer of Software Systems
Years active1976[1]–present
Engineering career
ProjectsHabitat, American Information Exchange
Significant designJSON, E (programming language)
AwardsFirst Penguin Award

Chip Morningstar is an American author, developer, software programmer and designer of software systems, mainly for online entertainment and communication.

Morningstar held many jobs throughout his career in the research and development of technology and programs. Most notably was Morningstar's role as project leader for Lucasfilm's Habitat, the first large-scale virtual multiuser environment.[2] In March 2001, Morningstar and colleague Randy Farmer were awarded the inaugural "First Penguin Award" by the International Game Developers Association for their work on Habitat. He also participated in Project Xanadu, for which the word hypertext was first coined. Additionally, he is credited with coining the term avatar[3][4] and pre-Internet work in online information marketplaces.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Morningstar graduated from University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering[5] in 1981[citation needed]. While at the University of Michigan he performed research in the Space Physics Research Laboratory, where he wrote device drivers and CAD software for electronic circuitry.[6][better source needed][non-primary source needed]

Chip Morningstar started his career as a research assistant at the University of Michigan and as an independent computer consultant. His original major was Aerospace at the University of Michigan. After his summer job in 1977 where he was surrounded by up to date computer technology, he changed his major to computer engineering.[7] In 1979, he took a job at the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) as a research engineer. While at ERIM he developed image processing software, languages and tools for the Cytocomputer. Morningstar also co-invented the Leonard-Morningstar image filter algorithm.[6]


Morningstar worked with Mark S. Miller on Project Xanadu,[5][8] the first distributed hypertext system (founded in 1960). Later, from 1984[9] to 1992, he worked at Lucasfilm, Ltd. as a designer and programmer, as well as cyberspace consultant.[citation needed] While at Lucasfilm, Morningstar held the position of Project Leader for Habitat, an early graphical online multiplayer environment, released in 1986.[2][10] Morningstar oversaw all development staff, as well as writing substantial portions of the server system himself.[6][better source needed][non-primary source needed] Use of the term “avatar” for a human being's representative in a game world originated in Habitat,[11] the term referring to a deity's Earthly incarnation in Hindu belief.[citation needed] Morningstar also worked on the SCUMM game engine, used in Maniac Mansion (1987)[12][13] and Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988).[14]

Presenting at the Second International Conference on Cyberspace in 1991, Morningstar and Randy Farmer found themselves bemused by the seemingly impenetrable postmodern "lit crit" of some academic speakers.[15][16] They revised their paper, "Cyberspace Colonies",[17] to feature a parody of this phraseology, and presented it on the second day of the conference. Morningstar subsequently published an essay on the topic, "How to Deconstruct Almost Anything",[16] which has been described as "a wonderful cutting-through of academic weed to find the ideas that flower at the center of post-modernism".[18]

Morningstar was chief architect at American Information Exchange Corporation,[2] and worked at Electric Communities[19] (with Randy Farmer and Douglas Crockford),[20] which acquired The Palace,[9] the world's largest graphical chat system at the time[citation needed]. They also developed the E programming language.

Morningstar then worked at State Software, where he helped create the JSON format with Crockford in 2001.[21] From 2003 to 2005, the worked at Avistar Communications as principal architect for a videoconferencing system.[6][non-primary source needed] In 2005, he joined Yahoo!, where he was the principal architect and development team leader for the Yahoo! Core Identity Platform (CoreID). CoreID is a system that provides a framework for the storage and retrieval for all users of Yahoo!.[6][non-primary source needed] He was also a team leader of the Yahoo! Reputation Platform,[22] as well as a member of Yahoo!'s Social Media advisory program.[6][non-primary source needed]

After Yahoo!, Morningstar and Farmer ran a consulting firm[23] from 2009 to 2011.[6][non-primary source needed] From 2012[6][non-primary source needed] to 2016,[24] he worked as an architect at PayPal and served as the company's representative to the Ecma TC39 committee, the international JavaScript standards body.[25] In January 2020, he joined Agoric.[citation needed]

Honors and recognitions[edit]

In March, 2001, Morningstar and his colleague Randy Farmer were awarded the First Penguin Award by the International Game Developers Association for their work on Lucasfilm's Habitat.[26][27] This game contributed to the evolution of what is now known as massively multiplayer games.


  1. ^ Handy, Alex (14 November 2016). "The future of software security". SD Times. After 40 years developing software
  2. ^ a b c d Epstein, Jim (7 October 2020). "Before the Web: The 1980s Dream of a Free and Borderless Virtual World". Reason.
  3. ^ Seibel, Peter (21 December 2009). "Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming". Google Books. Apress. Chip Morningstar started [Habitat]. He invented the avatar; he invented the graphical virtual world -- Douglas Crockford
  4. ^ Hale, Constance (1996). "Wired style : principles of English usage in the digital age". San Francisco, Calif. : HardWired : Distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West.
  5. ^ a b Ivory, James D. (2012). "Virtual Lives: A Reference Handbook". ABC-CLIO. p. 140.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Morningstar, Chip. "Resume". Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  7. ^ Wallis, Alistair (12 October 2006). "Playing Catch Up: Habitat's Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer". Gamastura. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  8. ^ Milburn, Colin (24 April 2015). "Mondo Nano: Fun and Games in the World of Digital Matter". Duke University Press. Chip Morningstar had known K. Eric Drexler [...] They had worked on the Xanadu Project along with [...] Mark S. Miller
  9. ^ a b Kimen, Shel (December 1998). "Maximum PC, Dec 1998". Future US, Inc. p. 53.
  10. ^ "The Game Archeologist Moves Into Lucasfilm's Habitat". Joystiq. 2012-01-10. Archived from the original on 2013-08-10. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
  11. ^ Kan, Michael. "What is an Avatar? Creators Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer Trace the Ancient Roots of the Latest Buzzword". Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  12. ^ Hatfield, Daemon (April 26, 2007). "Interview: SCUMM of the Earth". IGN. Ziff Davis. p. 1. Archived from the original on October 9, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  13. ^ "MOCAGH.ORG: Lucasfilm and Lucasarts: maniac manual". Internet Archive. Lucasfilm. 1987.
  14. ^ "ZAK MCKRACKEN". Internet Archive. Lucasfilm. 1988.
  15. ^ Farmer, Randy (10 May 1991). "The Second International Conference on Cyberspace: Literary Criticism Collides With Software Engineering" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  16. ^ a b Morningstar, Chip. "How to Deconstruct Almost Anything". Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  17. ^ Jacobson, Robert (28 April 1991). "Report on Cyberspace Conference 2, Santa Cruz, CA, Apr 91". Newsgroupsci.virtual-worlds. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  18. ^ Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. p. 613. ISBN 0-131-01816-7.
  19. ^ "Making Java A Secure Programming Language". 19 February 1997.
  20. ^ LLC, SPIN Media (October 1994). "Chip+Morningstar"+crockford&pg=PA88 "SPIN". SPIN Media LLC.
  21. ^ Crockford, Douglas (18 October 2018). "How JavaScript Works". Virgule-Solidus. p. 20-24.
  22. ^ Farmer, Randy; Glass, Bryce (4 March 2010). "Chip+Morningstar"+yahoo&pg=PR16 "Building Web Reputation Systems". "O'Reilly Media, Inc.". p. 16.
  23. ^ Schiemann, Dylan (23 August 2010). "[Foundation] [VOTE] Accept the Open Reputation Framework as a Dojo Foundation sponsored project?".
  24. ^ Handy, Alex (25 January 2016). "SD Times Blog: Macross 6502 on GitHub". SD Times. Today, he works as the architect at PayPal
  25. ^ "Minute of the 46th meeting of Ecma TC39" (PDF). Santa Clara, CA, USA: TC39 committee. 27–29 May 2015. p. 1.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  26. ^ Smith, Rob (2008). "Rogue Leaders - The Story Of Lucasarts". p. 24.
  27. ^ "First Penguin Archive". Game Developers Choice Awards. Retrieved March 3, 2021.

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