I Remember The Oregon Trail
It was the early 90’s and I was in middle school looking forward to only one part of my day – the lucky few moments when I led my virtual family in a trek across 19th century North America to find a better life in the West. It was a hard journey, fraught with danger and disease, but with a little luck and enough time to finish I just might achieve victory over The Oregon Trail.
It may not seem possible that a game created in 1985 could have been this epic or enduring, but I assure you it was and is. I had never played a game that was so customizable (you could name all five of the family members!), nor as deep (never before had I seen so many choices to be made in a game).
My fellow students and I experienced this classic on the classic Apple IIc in a small computer lab at what was then S.P. Morton Middle School. Though not cutting edge, the computer lab still seemed special when compared to the other places of learning in the school. It was a place where social standing didn’t matter, and you could set yourself apart from your peers, for those of us who could not do so on the football field or basketball courts.
Sure, you could play Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune as well, but The Oregon Trail was the first to go from the limited supply of diskettes in the coveted games box. One gained access to said game box only after completing all of their typing challenges. Though not the fastest typist in the group, I made up for it with focus and almost always got my happy hands on one of The Oregon Trail disks.
I lost many a virtual family member to dysentery, hundreds of cattle drowned in rivers which I knew I could get across, and to this day I get a little too upset when 800 of the 900 pounds of meat I killed hunting gets left behind because virtual me can’t carry it back to the wagon. Once a year when I resurrect this classic, a happy (dorky) grin spreads across my face. Experiences like playing The Oregon Trail are what led me to my current position in the field of technology, though I never knew it at the time. I simply thought it was a fun game that was better than trying to stay awake in math class. Little did I know I had been bitten by the bug that still haunts me to this day. Bye-bye productivity, hello fantasy world!
Feeling nostalgic? You can play an emulated version of the very same game I have so gushingly recalled in this article! Visit VirtualApple.org/oregontraildisk.html using the Firefox web browser and install the plug-in. The site even emulates the sound effects and load times. It’s free and brings back great memories!