Your Favorite Educational Video Game was Programmed on a TypeWriter

Alright, so the title is totally clickbait, but I couldn’t help share what I’ve found to be an enchantingly brief dramatization of the the origins of everyone’s favorite educational video game, Oregon Trail. Well, at least everyone of my generation’s favorite educational video game.

Yes, the original version of Oregon Trail, the great grand-daddy of edutaining digital simulations, began life as a board game, and with the help of three college students was turned into computer code on a Teleprinter; a device with no monitor, and punch cards as output. That’s right, the original developers of the game created it using a medium that couldn’t even allow them to visualize their final output until it was finished and compiled after being translated from the paper cards to a computer.

Take that into the present, and you can get a picture of why so many in the educational technology world get excited about virtual reality, augmented reality, and any other types of reality that students are creating worlds within. You never know when some seemingly incomprehensible experience (writing an interactive computer simulation through typed punch cards) will translate to a cultural, and potentially educational, touchstone. It flies in the face of my previous post about my growing stoicism with the educational technology landscape, but at the same time gives me solace knowing there will always be a steady stream of newcomers and dreamers in the arena, ready to champion the next “big thing” despite obstacles and curmudgeons like myself 🙂

Thanks to John Phillips for sharing this with me.


  1. I played this in school and as the banker I got through the game in like 8 mins. Carpenter for me takes 20-30 mins and framer takes for me 30- 45 mins.

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