Donald L. Bitzer

Donald L. Bitzer
Donald L. Bitzer
Inventor of the plasma display monitor, forerunner of the modern flat panel television screen, and co-developer of PLATO, the first computer-based interactive educational network and home of the first online community.

A long-time faculty member in the College of Engineering, Donald L. Bitzer focused his research on how technology could solve instructional issues. he is best known as the “father of PLATO,” the first computer-assisted education system to combine graphics and touch screens.

Bitzer holds patents for several inventions, including a high-quality modem and new satellite communications techniques, and he held a stake in NovaNet online courseware. He was part of a team that invented the plasma display, an achievement recognized with an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television Technology in 1992. Originally invented as an educational aid for the PLATO system, plasma monitor technology enabled development of large-screen flat-panel televisions.

A recipient of many awards and recognitions for his work,Bitzer is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He retired from the University of Illinois in 1989. He received the ECE Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1992, and the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2004.

Currently, Bitzer is a Distinguished University Research Professor in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on voice recognition and genomics, which has led to several start-up companies.


  • BS, Electrical Engineering, 1955
  • MS, Electrical Engineering, 1956
  • PHD, Electrical Engineering, 1960