Chapter 2 verses 8-11. “On the second day the Lord Southeastern did make one train early. And the people were red of face and short of breath but on time. And the second train did He make late – as he had yesternight – and the people did wonder at the repetition of his will”. Here endeth the lesson

September 12, 2013 § Leave a comment


Oregon Trail was played for the first time in Rawitsch’s history class on December 3, 1971. He wheeled the school’s machine into the classroom and turned it on as the class watched curiously. He divided them into teams and handed out paper maps to follow along.

There were a few obvious problems right away. With only one teletype, each group had to wait up to half an hour for its turn.

It didn’t take long for the kids to poke holes in the hastily assembled code. They could enter negative amounts of money and actually add to their coffers. Sometimes they were told the date was October 0, 1848.

Eventually other teachers would protest that the mention of “Indians” wasn’t politically correct.

But on the first day, none of that mattered to Rawitsch.

“They loved it,” he remembers. “The person who was good at the map kept track of where they were, the person who was good at math kept track of the money. They formed a little collaborative.”

Depending on the students’ choices, each game came out a little differently. And though few made it to the end alive, rather than quit, the kids wanted to try again.

The trio of student teachers loaded the program onto the schools’ so-called “timesharing” system, a library of programs that were accessible from teletypes within the Minneapolis school district. Dillenberger started letting his math students at Bryant try it, and soon kids were lined up six or seven deep outside the janitor’s closet. They began arriving early to play and staying until teachers kicked them out.

“We knew there was something special about it,” says Dillenberger.

When the semester ended, however, Rawitsch went in and deleted the program. Oregon Trail went dark. He printed out the code—hundreds and hundreds of lines of it on a long roll of yellow computer paper—rolled it up, and took it home.

It would be years before any student traveled the Oregon Trail again.

“I really didn’t have an idea of how something more could be done with it.”  read more


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