Screen Shot of Early-Generation “Oregon Trail”
Don Rawitsch, a student teacher in North Minneapolis, was struggling to find a way to make the concept of westward expansion interesting to the kids in his history class. Then he hit on a radical idea: why not create a computer game in which the students could assume the role of a wagon leader guiding a party of settlers through the American West? (Remember, this was way back when computers were the size of Ford Pintos.) With help from a pair of fellow Carleton College students, he developed a game called “Oregon Trail,” and on December 3, 1971, he introduced it to his class. It was an instant hit. A couple years later, Rawitsch took a job with Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), a state-funded developer of educational software. He uploaded “Oregon Trail” to MECC’s time-sharing network, and the game won a slew of new fans. When MECC made the jump to Apple II computers in 1978, “Oregon Trail” migrated to the new platform. It soon established itself as the premiere educational computer game, played by millions of kids worldwide.
Image via ENGL 278W