Blazing the Oregon Trail; the making of video games in the time of cholera

Last Friday we got the inside scoop on the making of the Oregon Trail video game from our guy John Krenz, who was the lead programmer for the Apple lle version back when he worked for the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation (MECC), an organization that set out to teach kids life lessons like the value of strong oxen, a spare axle for your wagon, shooting wild game and steering clear of cholera. Show-and-tell also featured four of John’s former MECC colleagues: Rich Bergeron; Beth Daniels; Tom Zemlin; and Mark Paquette. Here’s a three-minute highlight reel from Friday’s BottleCap Talk, and also the unabridged video. On a personal note, I recently passed away. Cholera.

The Oregon Trail Bottlecap Talk: The Music Video from The Nerdery on Vimeo.

The Oregon Trail Bottlecap Talk from The Nerdery on Vimeo.

Go west; secrets of the Oregon Trail revealed at today’s BottleCap Talk

Today we kick it old school at BottleCap talk. We’ll hear from John Krenz – one of the Oregon Trail’s pioneer (pun well-intended) programmers – and these days one of our software development managers.

John was the lead programmer for the Apple lle version of Oregon Trail. Turns out he knew all along that Oregon Trail was educational – tricking kids into learning (social studies and language arts) and playing with computers (the gateway to all kinds of nerdiness) by making it fun.

Education remains fun at Nerdery BottleCap talks – a time (4:30 every Friday) dedicated to peer-to-peer learning (w/beer). Our typical BottleCap is a show-and-tell of a notable Nerdery project launched during the week, and while we unleashed numerous eventual interactive classics this week, John will demo the proud product of his formative years using a classic/relic Apple lle (the way the game was meant to be played, some purists say).

The Trail may be old but the beer is cold. Visitors are welcome – leave us a comment if you’re coming. Ample parking for oxen, bring your own hay.

Tron 2: Electric Boogaloo

In yesterday’s post you heard from Justin and David, software creators (by day) who spent their wee hours on a rare hardware project – resurrecting a vintage 1982 Tron arcade game. It. Is. Alive! Today they dish on how to beat Tron, the merits and demerits of a film by the same name, and what it all means to their Pentathanerd dreams (Winter Games, anyone?).

Tron 101 from The Nerdery on Vimeo.

More on MAME, as referenced in today’s clip by the chairman of the Nerdery Hardware Club.
MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. When used in conjunction with images of the original arcade game’s ROM and disk data, MAME attempts to reproduce that game as faithfully as possible on a more modern general-purpose computer. MAME can currently emulate several thousand different classic arcade video games from the late 1970s through the modern era.

So while our Tron will always be Tron (or until it suffers some irreparable breakdown), our Solitaire game will get a complete Nerdery makeover. What games should we add? Stay tuned…

Tron is back on

Need a Tron fix? We did, too. We recently bartered a few hours of web work for this 1982 video game classic. Our new relic played nice until showing its age on day two, and it took a good bit of Nerdery tinkering to revive ol’ Tron. Let’s have a look under the hood with David and Justin:

Tinkering w/Tron from The Nerdery on Vimeo.

It is definitively nerdy just having Tron in the workplace – but having people on staff who can figure out what’s wrong and then fix it elevates us to a whole new level.

Astute viewers of today’s video clip will have noticed another video game sitting there next to Tron – check back tomorrow to learn how our recently formed Hardware Club plans to expand Solitaire’s playing field. Also tomorrow: Justin enjoys the fruits of his labor and dishes on how to get Tron high score at your office, and, speculation of expanding the video game competition at the next Pentathanerd.