[MUD-Dev] Re: First use of "avatar"?

F. Randall Farmer randy.farmer at pobox.com
Sat Dec 29 09:15:25 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dr. Cat

> My recollection is that one of the earliest uses of "avatar" was
> by VR pioneer Jaron Lanier, to describe the user representation in
> 3D polygon based virtual reality systems.  I can't remember
> whether his use of it predates Habitat or not.  I don't think it
> was necessarily the first use of the term, but I think it did more
> to spread the usage and awareness of it than most of its
> contemporaries.  That's if I'm remembering right.  I'm not even
> 100% sure that Lanier used the term at all, so if I were you I
> wouldn't cite that without fact-checking me on this one first.
> :X)

[I am very sorry this post is so late. I've been busy as of late
(including a job change), and I'm not working in the industry
anymore, so this group had decreased in 'priority'. I hope I can
catch up with 500+ posts!]

The usage of "Avatar" to mean "The graphical representation of
yourself in a shared digital world" was first used in 1984-1988 in a
product that was then called Lucasfilm's Habitat. Chip Morningstar
coined the usage. I was with him at the time. Yes, it was derived
from the Hindi usage. This significantly predates any other similar
usage that I am aware of.

(In 1988, the product changed names to Club Caribe, and the
documentation changed the term for this concept, but by then some in
the alt.cyberspace/VRML community had picked up the term. Neal
Stephenson says that he had thought that the term was original with
him, but when I contacted him at the time, he graciously put a
corrected afterward in the paperback version of Snow Crash.)

It is important to note that the term "Avatar" was used in another
game around later in that period (Ultima IV) and the _concept_ of
an Avatar was in several works of fiction prior to the development
of Habitat, including Vernor Vinge's "True Names" and John Brunner's
"Shockwave Rider".

Randy

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