Posted by Charles Wright on September 25, 2002
The Meanings and Origins of phrases
contains this entry for "Plug and Play":
Originally a technique by which new equipment can be automatically configured when plugged into a computer. Later used for any ready to use item.
Originated with Microsoft's Windows operating system which incorporated this facility. Widely lampooned as 'plug and pray'.
Actually, this phrase predates Windows by many years, and I think you will find that it originated with IBM. Some 20 years ago I bought an Okidata printer (as I remember it was a model 80 or 82). at the time, I also ordered the ROM to give it the same character set was used on the IBM personal computer. The plastic box in which it came and the enclosed installation manual were clearly marked in large letters "Plug and Play." This was two or three years before the original release of Microsoft Windows (a copy of which I still have).
it is possible I still have that installation manual. if it is important to the person who keeps the list of phrases, i'll try to retrieve it.