I had the pleasure of meeting someone who is more of an old-timer, and much more connected, than I am when it comes to virtual worlds<bwg>. Actually, he is somewhat of an authority on the subject, and literally wrote the book on Avatars! (http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars/). His name is Bruce Damer (http://www.damer.com/). Bruce is an amazing guy who has not only been around since the origins of virtual worlds, he has participated in most all of them along the way. Poke around his site and you will find a wealth of information from the early days.
I met Bruce quite by accident back in October when I saw his website for his Digibarn Museum (http://www.digibarn.com/). I had an item (that really dates me, as I got one for Christmas back in 1976 when I was in 8th grade, yikes!) that I wanted to donate to his Digibarn museum. It was a Fairchild Channel F video game system http://www.digibarn.com/collections/games/fairchild-channelF/index.html . I contacted him to come over and tour the museum and to make the donation the week after I met with our school in Kyoto Japan to start PacRimX. I spent an afternoon at his house talking about virtual worlds, touring his barn, and generally being fascinated with his knowledge of computers and virtual worlds history.
Here’s an article from CNET on his background with virtual worlds:
While I was there for the visit he showed me a project he was working on starting, and today he sent me this URL: http://www.vwtimeline.org/ They are seeking volunteers for this project. It looks to be a very important project to chronicle the history of virtual worlds.
You might find this Presentation interesting (http://www.vwtimeline.org/presentations/pub-launch-vwtimeline/linden_files/frame.htm). This was a presentation he made at Linden Lab on October 27th, the week before I met him.
I know that many here are just discovering virtual worlds, but if you want to see some of the history going back to the origins, Bruce’s pages are a great place to look. Bruce was involved with the Second Life Community Convention 2006 (http://www.damer.com/pictures/digicamera/pix2006/06-LocalEvents/06-08-19-SLCC06/index.html). With any luch he will be at the 2007 convention. As 2007’s convention gets closer, we should all see if we can’t get a side meeting going with all SLED members at the SLCC 2007.
And no, I don’t usually make it a habit of jumping in the middle of antique Cray supercomputers. That picture on the page about the donation of the Fairchild was taken from a spot Bruce and the Digibarn had in a Dicovery Channel documentary: http://www.digibarn.com/collections/movies/05-11-DiscoveryCA-Shatner/index.html
Bruce is the CEO fo Digital Space. Here’s a link to that site and some of their projects.
If you ever get a chance to meet Bruce Damer, go up and introduce yourself. He is a fascinating and very down to earth guy who literally is (as he is quoted in the CNET interview) the “Gandalf the Grey” of virtual worlds.
I hope you find a lot of interesting information on the history of virtual worlds in these links.