Fording the River
January 19, 2011 11:44 AM   Subscribe


 
*dies from dysentery*
posted by kmz at 11:46 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Well, that sounds great," said Rawitsch. "But I need it by next Friday."

Good to know some things never change.
posted by adipocere at 11:50 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was hoping "peperony and chease" would be revealed as some sort of Masonic callsign.
posted by griphus at 11:51 AM on January 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


*shoots a buffalo, but only takes 100 pounds of meat*
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:51 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


That no one ever wanted to do anything other than the hunting minigame was a pretty good predictor of the current video game market

Bullets have since reached non-baseball speed however
posted by MangyCarface at 11:54 AM on January 19, 2011


My son POOP had dysentery ALL the time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:57 AM on January 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Awesome read. That article was more compelling than every playthrough of the actual game.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:58 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


OR-ə-gən
OR-ə-GON

Discuss.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:58 AM on January 19, 2011


What a fantastic read. Oregon Trail was my very first video game, in a long history of playing video games. My heart was in my throat every time I would go to ford a river - no, please, don't wash my oxen down the river! Much much love for that game (and damnit, it *was* compelling to a 10 year old, thankyouverymuch).

I have a screenshot somewhere in my huge images folder of a OT game where I'd stuck in character names from my current tabletop RPG group, and our extremely taciturn but badass magician "got sick and died." I can't tell you *why* this remains so hilarious to me, but it is. It's like imagining Vin Diesel getting sick and dying, just like that. No disease or dysentery or battling C'thulu, just.. got sick and died. Too fun.
posted by ashirys at 12:04 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


A rich neighbor kid had this when I was young, and he would brag endlessly about his adventures. I asked for, but never got Oregon Trail. OH HOW I LOATHED YOU, JOEY WARREN!! But... lookie here, things seem to have changed a bit. I can now play Oregon Trail anytime I wish, you smug bastard!! The worm has turned!!!
posted by Senator at 12:15 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


This reminded me to look for the Australian equivalent- Goldfields.

Mining, market gardens, treasure maps, and bastard bush rangers. Good times.
posted by zamboni at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2011


The school spirit other people feel when their college plays football games or whatever is the same school spirit I feel about Carleton whenever Oregon Trail comes up in conversation.
posted by jackflaps at 12:20 PM on January 19, 2011 [9 favorites]



OR-ə-gən
OR-ə-GON

Discuss.


You're not from around here, are you?

And by here I mean OR-ə-gən
posted by mingo_clambake at 12:20 PM on January 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Oregons of Origin Trail
posted by orville sash at 12:23 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


The waiter's eyes widened. Wordlessly, he slipped back into the kitchen.

When he returned, he told Rawitsch, "Well, I told the other waiters I'm serving the inventor of Oregon Trail. I'm now the king of the restaurant."

This made me tear up at the office.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:27 PM on January 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


My sister in law and her husband recently moved cross country to Oregon. Mrs. Maaik made them t shirts for the long Ryder truck drive there with their names entered in as team members on the back and "DO NOT DIE OF DYSENTERY - Oregon Trail '10" emblazoned on the front.

I was super jealous that I wasn't going. I wanted one of those shirts!
posted by Maaik at 12:28 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


That was quite a well-written and interesting article. Thanks.
posted by Eideteker at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2011


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:47 PM on January 19, 2011


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?

Geography and history don't count now?
posted by kingbenny at 1:01 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oregon Trail was the second computer game I played. The first was a math quiz game my dad wrote for me on our TRS-80 Model 1 (upgraded to 4k RAM!).

I played Oregon Trail in a computer lab at OU in Norman, Oklahoma while my dad was doing some working on his PhD work. I think I was 7 or 8 so this would have been 1978 or 1979. Killing time with Oregon Trail in that lab was the starting point for a lifelong immersion in computer stuff. In some way that program is responsible for my career.

I saw my first source code control disaster in that lab. A grad student walking across the room tripped and dropped the box of punch cards that was probably the core of his thesis. Thousands of cards in a once precise order scattered across the tile. A growing look of shock and despair on his face.
posted by Babblesort at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?

Ideally, you weren't supposed to pound on the spacebar until all that boring descriptive stuff about places you passed went away.

Ideally.
posted by griphus at 1:13 PM on January 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?

I didn't know about Chimney Rock or dysentery before I played that game.
posted by cortex at 1:16 PM on January 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?

I didn't know you could drown in a three foot deep river before I tried to float my wagon with grandfather clocks.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:18 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


During the time I played OT obsessively, I remember coming up with a strategy that involved:

- Always being a teacher.
- Always going at the quickest speed and stopping constantly to rest.
- Naming my characters ridiculous things, of course. Fartacus was always the main character and one of the kids was usually Butt Junior.
- Hunting every few minutes even if I was at full meat capacity.
- Attempting insane trades with Indians that never worked, but at that point I had learned about "computer glitches" and I figured maybe one day I'd be able to trade two bullets for 4 axles and 2 oxen and some meat and who knows maybe a TV if the glitch was really crazy.
- Always choosing to attempt to ford the river regardless of how insane the attempt may have been.

God I loved that game. Maybe not quite as much as Dark Castle, but I loved it.
posted by ORthey at 1:23 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I played Oregon Trail a lot in middle school during study hall but unfortunately the class periods were always too short to finish any game. It'd always start out and get to roughly the same part before the bell would ring. I had no idea how it ended, what Oregon looked like, but I imagined it was glorious.

It wasn't until I was 27 and came across a ROM when I booted it up again, determined this time to finish it. Staying late after work, I started along the trail and quickly died. Several times. Getting later and later into the night, with no school bell to force a resignation, I left 3 hours later, finally over coming one of the greatest unfulfilled dreams of my childhood.

Then I played it again to get a higher score.
posted by yeti at 1:23 PM on January 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


My sister-in-law worked at MECC for a while, and has told some stories about The Good Old Days.

I liked deer hunting with the spacebar. I wonder if I can get an Oregon Trail for my iPad?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:24 PM on January 19, 2011


Fun read, except for :

"This has a very sticky nostalgia to it," he says. "We'll continue to leverage the popularity of the brand going forward."

RAGE
posted by brundlefly at 1:25 PM on January 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think it's funny that such a successful company, with useful software, was built almost entirely by smart use of public funds, and then run utterly into the ground by a corporation watching their bottom line without actually making any decent products in the process.
posted by codacorolla at 1:25 PM on January 19, 2011 [23 favorites]


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?

Ah hah! It worked!
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:27 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?

I'm pretty sure Oregon Trail is the sole reason that anyone at all knows what "fording a river" means.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:27 PM on January 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ah, the good old days. I remember back to the era of timeshare/teletype educational software. I even did a contract programming job for MECC, the first "job from hell" I ever did. They wanted me to port a math program from the Apple II to the Atari. Unfortunately, the Apple app did something programmers are never supposed to do: use the program to modify its own code. "Self-modifying code" is considered an egregious sin in most CS circles. But that is what made this program work.
So I told my boss, this program can't be ported. Atari Basic prohibits self-modifying code, as it should. There is no way to make the Atari modify its own Basic code. The boss told me to try harder, I worked for weeks, far longer than the port was expected to take, but there was no solution. I returned the Atari I borrowed to program on, but at least I still got paid for the (failed) job.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:34 PM on January 19, 2011


I'm pretty sure Oregon Trail is the sole reason that anyone at all knows what "fording a river" means.

Yeah, until then, everyone just sort of assumed that "fording a river" meant either driving a Ford into it or standardizing and streamlining it in order to increase its flow rate.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:34 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always confuse this game with Gold Rush!, where not only can you get dysentery, you can get scurvy if you forget the oranges.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:35 PM on January 19, 2011


"I'm pretty sure Oregon Trail is the sole reason that anyone at all knows what "fording a river" means."

Ah, I see you don't ride a motorcycle. At least not offroad.
posted by Eideteker at 1:36 PM on January 19, 2011


Ah ha ha ha! I forgot about this one!

A ford, fording.
posted by Eideteker at 1:38 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


By 1982, teachers all over the country were calling MECC to ask how to erase curse words from their students' tombstones.

Getting quite the nostalgic chuckle out of this.

"Here lies BUTTFACE"

Ahh, memories.
posted by Maaik at 1:38 PM on January 19, 2011


OR-ə-gən
OR-ə-GON

Discuss.


Orygun (from an old University of Oregon bumper sticker)
posted by jgaiser at 1:42 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


You forgot to link Oregon Trail: Documentary (in the same issue by the same author).
posted by stbalbach at 1:51 PM on January 19, 2011


When I worked for a bank that merged with a western bank whose headquarters were located in Oregon, they sent out a worksheet on proper pronunciation, in case we talked to customers. I believe they advised us was that the only vowel you pronounced was the first O, something like "Orr-gn". I'm not sure they were right.

I bought a Apple ][e at a rummage sale a few years back and played Oregon Trail for a couple days before selling it on eBay. I have some photos of the screen from a couple points. "BONER has died." and the tombstone reading "Here lies BONER - IT WAS A GOOD RIDE". I think I made CafePress T-shirts of those, even. I never beat it, although I remember seeing somebody do the raft-down-the-Columbia part and win way back in the 8th grade - a hero among us dysentry sufferers.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:53 PM on January 19, 2011


Could someone please tell me how exactly Oregon Trail was supposed to be educational?

For what it's worth: playing that game in first grade was the first time it occurred to me that people traveled across the country without benefit of Honda Accords, Waffle Houses, 76 stations and rest areas on interstates. After having spent some of the last 30 years of my life traveling on motorcycles, canoe, horseback or even on foot with my possessions on my back, I can probably say that playing this game on a computer in a small spare room in my elementary school contributed to a lifetime enjoyment of traveling differently.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:53 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]




"This has a very sticky nostalgia to it," he says. "We'll continue to leverage the popularity of the brand going forward."

RAGE


Seriously. How can anybody talk like that without laughing?
posted by steambadger at 2:00 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe they advised us was that the only vowel you pronounced was the first O, something like "Orr-gn". I'm not sure they were right.

It's not terrible as a lay rendering, actually. "OR-ə-gən", per Sys Rq, is a reasonable rendering except that we really pretty much swallow the middle vowel sound; it only lasts as long as it takes to change mouth shape from the "r" to the "g", there's no full beat in there. It's more a two-syllable word than a three-syllable one, and that distinction is at least as jarring as folks who make the final syllable rhyme with "con".

So since you've got this sort of ghostly half-vowel between the r and the g, treating it like a drawn out "r" sound isn't far off the mark; and since nobody knows what the hell a schwa is when they see it written down, skipping it and letting people just make the natural mouth shape they're gonna when trying to flow from a hard g into an n sound works as a way to produce the schwa by declining to ask for it.
posted by cortex at 2:01 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


A Land Cruiser, fording (disable sound)
posted by anthill at 2:02 PM on January 19, 2011




Great read overall, but:

"It's hard to think of another game that endured for so long and yet has still been so successful,"

huh?
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:04 PM on January 19, 2011


It's "OR-ə-gən", in case you don't want to out yourself as a non-Oregonian.
posted by everichon at 2:05 PM on January 19, 2011


This reminded me to look for the Australian equivalent- Goldfields.

I always felt the Australian equivalent was Granny's Garden...sort of not the same style of game, but certainly the first thing a lot of 8 year olds ever played on their Amstrad or Commodore.

I remember week after week of playing Granny's Garden in "Computer Class", until I figured out what the ESCAPE key did, and tried my hand at figuring out BASIC instead. Ms. Simpson wasn't happy with me.
posted by Jimbob at 2:53 PM on January 19, 2011


I saw my first source code control disaster in that lab. A grad student walking across the room tripped and dropped the box of punch cards that was probably the core of his thesis. Thousands of cards in a once precise order scattered across the tile. A growing look of shock and despair on his face.
posted by Babblesort at 3:05 PM on January 19 [1 favorite +] Adding...


Now that, my friend, is eponysterical.
posted by verb at 3:17 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's "OR-ə-gən", in case you don't want to out yourself as a non-Oregonianpretentious Eastern fop.

Other Westerners know how to pronounce it too, same as we know how to pronounce Nevada. And even though we Washingtonians give our southern neighbors a hard time about gas stations and income tax, you'll never hear us mispronouncing the name of their state. It's our payment in gratitude for all the Californians they filter out.
posted by eritain at 3:29 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


"We'll continue to leverage the popularity of the brand going forward."

This is one of those phrases, much like "I'll have a Disaronno sour", that marks the speaker as an alien robot from outer space.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:58 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to work on backpacking trips with a friend whose immediate answer to any question regarding stream-crossings was: "CAULK THE WAGON and FLOAT!" It always made me feel old when our students had no idea what he was talking about or why their instructor team had just dissolved into giggles again.
posted by colfax at 6:53 PM on January 19, 2011


I used to play this game like a round of MASH: pick out four boys, start the trail in snow, driving at a hard pace, and basically try to kill them all off. The last one alive won! Oh, the things you come up with to entertain yourself in elementary school.

I continue to be amazed that this game still survives, lives on, and gets better graphics. Hell, you can even fish, last time I played it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:35 PM on January 19, 2011


Am I the only one who constantly played at a grueling pace with bare-bones rations in a desperate bid to see how far I could get without cholera taking its toll? Grim foreshadowing of my poor Sims' ends...
posted by mynameisluka at 9:41 PM on January 19, 2011


Ah, Oregon Trail, Word Munchers, Number Munchers...

Back in the mid-90's, I ran the largest public LAN in Michigan, in a library in a blue collar, inner ring suburb of Detroit. MECC games were hugely popular. Even got in a little Oregon Trail time myself.

When I saw this post, the MECC splash screen came up in my head.

We bought just about every MECC title. They had reasonable licensing requirements (unlike Microsoft, who told me I had to buy a separate copy for every computer on my LAN and could not install anything on the server. I didn't buy any MS software. Ever). Sierra was even better, though. When I called to ask if I could install some of their games on my LAN, they immediately faxed me a blanket license to run any of their games for as many users as could fit in the seats, put me on a list for special sales and closeouts and offered me a substantial educational discount.
posted by QIbHom at 8:06 AM on January 20, 2011


My early experience with OT was much like yeti's; a couple of friends and I would start it, generally during recess when the weather was bad or something, but we'd never manage to finish it before the time was up.

The school only had a couple of copies of the game, too, and teachers (the ones lucky enough to have computers) sort of traded them around periodically. OT was by far the most popular. Odell Lake had its partisans though, too.

My personal favorite, however, was Think Quick, which was actually a Learning Company title, not a MECC one. I was pretty much alone in liking it, so it didn't get broken out very often. I begged my parents to get an Apple II pretty much solely so I could play that game. (It didn't work.) But that game, along with Rocky's Boots, still strike me as two of the most successful educational games that I've ever played, in the sense of actually having been mildly educational. Although it wasn't until sometime in highschool when I was messing around with TTL gates that it suddenly dawned on me what Rocky's Boots was trying to teach.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2011


Other Westerners know how to pronounce it too, same as we know how to pronounce Nevada. And even though we Washingtonians give our southern neighbors a hard time about gas stations and income tax, you'll never hear us mispronouncing the name of their state. It's our payment in gratitude for all the Californians they filter out.
posted by eritain


Wait, how do they pronounce Nevada on the East Coast?
posted by sweetmarie at 9:39 AM on January 20, 2011


Wait, how do they pronounce Nevada on the East Coast?
The second syllable of "Nevada" is correctly pronounced with the /æ/ vowel of "bad". Many people from outside the Western United States pronounce the name /nəˈvɑːdə/, with the /ɑː/ vowel of "father"; this is closer to the Spanish pronunciation of 'a', but is considered incorrect by locals. (wiki)
posted by flug at 12:41 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older Crash covers   |   Older and Poorer Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments