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Today, 40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Kosmo from The Soap Boxers.
The game of Oregon Trail is a major reason why I have been an avid user of Apple products for a quarter of a century.
When I was in elementary, the school received its very first computers. The computers were Apple IIe, and they were most commonly used to play Oregon Trail. A bug in the game is what originally stoked my interest in programming. It was possible to turn the trading post into your personal ATM by selling more items than you actually possessed. For example, if you had 3 spare wagon wheels, you could sell 10 wagon wheels to the trading post – an obvious flaw in the logic. Even “better” was the fact that your inventory would be reduced to 0 and not to 7 … meaning that you could immediately buy 3 wagon wheels to return your inventory to its original level.
Photo by bugeater (with Apple logo added by Evan Kline).
Shortly thereafter, runaway greed taught me about overflow errors. If you try to sell 999999999999999999999999999 wagon wheels, the program would terminate in an unpleasant fashion.
When I got to high school, I took my first programming class. We were still on the IIe, despite the fact that the Macintosh models had been around for several years at that point. This was an era (circa 1990) when few people had much exposure to programming. The class was BASIC. Not only were we using the BASIC language, but the course was rather simplistic for me, considering that I had been playing around with BASIC for a few years. My teacher had the brilliant suggestion of having me design my own curriculum.
This was the point at which I was exposed to IBM computers. The school’s computers were still using DOS – so this was not a pleasant experience.
Later in my high school years, I was exposed to the Macintosh. At first, I was just using a Mac SE with a 9” monochrome monitor – but I was completely blown away. The user interface was light years ahead of what I had been using on the IIe and IBMs.
I got permission from the Mac guy, Mr. S., to hang out in the Mac lab during all my study halls. So I spent a couple hours in the lab every day. Some days the computers were in heavy use, but many days, it was simply myself and my friend Amy using the Macs and chatting about sports.
For my physic project, I developed a computer program that plotted projectile motion. The environment I used for this was Hypercard – which was rather poorly suited for the task. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way – and my project received an A grade. I also programmed a blackjack game which had pretty strong logic but lackluster graphics (due mostly to the fact that I am artistically challenged).
In college, I worked in the English department’s Mac labs. I noticed that the Mac lab had an employee : computer ratio of 50:1, while the PC labs on campus had ratios of about 20:1. This left an impression on me.
After college, I settled into a job with a Fortune 500 company. My first company computer ran OS/2 Warp. It wasn’t a Mac, but I still preferred it to the OS being sold by the evil empire (Microsoft). After a few months on the job, I scraped together a big enough credit limit to buy my first Mac – a Power Mac 6500.
During the past dozen years, I have supported an application running (mostly) on Windows with an OS/390 back end. To round out my OS exposure, I have also used Unix (including SUSE Linux). Essentially, I have used every operating system that is in general use.
And, yet, I remain committed to the Mac. I have even dragged my wife (somewhat kicking and screaming) over to the Mac side. I run my machines naked (whoa, that just means that I don’t use Anti-Virus software), perform minimal maintenance, and experience very few problems with the machines. I rarely curse at my Macs. I’m a customer for life.
And Apple owes it all to Oregon Trail.
Bio: Kosmo is an aspiring novelist, vehement opponent of the designated hitter, student of true crime, and plays the keyboard for The Soap Boxers – an eclectic, team-written web magazine.