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Donald L. Bitzer (born January 1, 1934) is an American electrical engineer and computer scientist. He was the co-inventor of the plasma display, is largely regarded as the "father of PLATO", and has made a career of improving classroom productivity by using computer and telecommunications technologies.
Bitzer received his bachelor's in 1955, his master's in 1956 and his doctorate in 1960, all in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois.
Bitzer holds patents for inventions including the plasma-display panel, the binary-weighted solenoid, a high-quality modem, and new satellite communications techniques. The creation of the PLATO computer system, the first system to combine graphics and touch-sensitive screens, is the hallmark of his efforts.
Bitzer co-invented the flat plasma display panel in 1964. Originally invented as an educational aid to help students working in front of computers for long periods of time, plasma screens do not flicker and are a significant advance in television technology. The display was also a way of overcoming the limited memory of the computer systems being used. In 1973 the National Academy of Engineering presented Bitzer with the Vladimir K. Zworykin Award, which honors the inventor of the iconoscope. The invention won the Industrial Research 100 Award in 1966.
A member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1974, Bitzer was designated a National Associate by the National Academies in 2002. In October the same year, he was awarded an Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his efforts in advancing television technology. He is also a Computer Society Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a member of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Dr. Bitzer is currently a Distinguished University Research Professor in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University.
- NCSU Faculty Page
- Oral history interview with Donald L. Bitzer, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Bitzer discusses his relationship with Control Data Corporation (CDC) during the development of PLATO, a computer-assisted instruction system. He describes the interest in PLATO of Harold Brooks, a CDC salesman and his help in procuring a 1604 computer for Bitzer's use. Bitzer recalls the commercialization of PLATO by CDC and his disagreements with CDC over marketing strategy and the creation of courseware for PLATO.
- Oral history interview with Thomas Muir Gallie, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Gallie, a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF), describes the impact of Don Bitzer and the PLATO system.
- University of Illinois Computer-based Education Research Laboratory PLATO Reports, PLATO Documents, and CERL Progress Reports, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Archival collection contains internal reports and external reports and publications related to the development of PLATO and the operations of University of Illinois's CERL.
- Control Data Corporation records. Computer-based education, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Computer-Based Education (CBE) series documents CDC’s objective to create, market and distribute PLATO courseware internally within various CDC departments and divisions, and externally.