#29. Computer Lab Day!

Get in a single file line! We’re going to the computer lab!

The itinerary: 20 minutes of typing exercises (more advanced kids got to use those plastic Jedi training-style hand blinders that prevented you from looking at the keyboard as you typed), followed by the highly anticipated 30 minute free for all with access to the greatest educational games ever.

Luckily your island of desks, Group 3, sat patiently with hands crossed in prayer mode and with your best angel faces on during inspection time, and was selected to line up first. Hooray! This was critical because it allowed you to be the first to enter the computer lab and block off the far corner for you and your friends.

You lead your class to the unmarked door next to the cafeteria and knock. You are greeted by Tom: a tall, lanky, pasty looking computer guy who looked like Woody from Toy Story. As you stand directly under Tom, who looked like he was 6’12”, you look straight up to discover that Tom, like every other adult man you have observed from this angle, also has an exploding jungle of nose hairs. Gross. “God, please don’t let me grow up to look like that,” you mutter under your breath.

As Tom spouted off his rules, you peek your head in to catch a glimpse of the 30 blue IBM screens glowing amid the darkness of the windowless computer lab. You smile as the alluring hum of those powerful Pentium 1 chips invite you to contribute to the crustiness of the Spacebar, the Enter key, and the letter “T”.

The first 20 minutes go by quickly. Now it’s game time, but how to best allocate the time?

First, you start off with Number Munchers. Let this video unlock some deeply buried memories:

In all honesty, the game stopped being fun after about 10 levels. However, three things made the game worthwhile:

1) Unnecessary aggressive use of the Spacebar. As your brain recognized a correct answer, your left hand slammed on the bar to lock in the points. The Spacebar was never as tight as it used to be after you were done abusing it. PING! PING!! PING!!!

2) Competing against your friends for speed: who was the fastest in recognizing all of the prime numbers in level 15? That’s right! Bragging rights (monopolizing that corner now starts to make sense)!

3) What made Number Munchers the most addicting was the intense competition to see who had the highest score. I’m not talking about you vs. your friends, which was fun… but more like you vs. the school. Make it onto the Hall of Fame and all other students in the school had to bow down to you, the Number Munchers Ace on computer #19.

OPTION 2: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego

Definitely not my game of choice given the limited lab time, as it took some time to get things rolling and was always more fun to play at a friend’s house instead. The game show was much cooler (I will write up a post on that sometime), but nonetheless it was fun using your geography skills to capture villains who committed the strangest crimes imaginable.

Gumshoe! Eartha Brute (Marge on steroids) just stole all the kimchi in Korea! Go!

OPTION 3: The one and only Oregon Trail

If you break it down objectively, the original version was actually a very boring game. The Oregon Trail had minimal sounds and animations, but it was all about the little things… the intangibles… that made the game amazing.
Such as:
– watching the tiny oxen legs move

– reading the most exciting text that you will ever find inside parentheses.

  • Steven DIED (measles, snakebite, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, exhaustion, drowned or broken leg). YAY!

– blowing 75% of your budget on a surplus of bullets. If you’re gonna hunt, you gotta go all out: strapped like Rambo.

– exciting nonstop hunting excursions:

  • Water Sprinkler style hunting: stationary rapid fire on the Spacebar, while rotating clockwise in all 9 directions.
  • Killing 2000 lbs of food (mostly buffalo) even though you knew you could only bring 100lbs back to the wagon. It’s the American way.
  • Hunting until you finally picked a squirrel off from a distance with a single square bullet. Mad skillz.

– Getting creative with naming the members in your party

  • You + 4 superheroes (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Aquaman)… BAM! Cholera. Who’s invincible now, Superman?
  • You + your 4 cuss word cousins (Fuck, Shit, Asshole, Bitch). Fuck! Watch your shit closely, before your asshole neighbor catches a glimpse of your screen and tattles on the teacher… detention, bitch!
  • Your top five enemies: don’t buy any clothes from the general store, set pace to grueling, set food rations low, ALWAYS ford the river… then you watch them die a spontaneous and satisfying death. Victory is mine! mwahhhahahah!

– Not playing it safe.

  • Everyone knows about the Facebook group “I Just Tried To Ford the River and My Fuckin Oxen Died.” Sure, you could have just been conservative and either caulked the wagon or paid the fee for the ferry…you could afford it, you’re always a banker… but you don’t, and it made life on the Oregon Trail just that much more exciting.

OPTION 4: My all time favorite, and I hope they had it at your school too: TREASURE MOUNTAIN!

Sorry if this video makes your brain explode from the deeply buried nostalgia extraction that’s about to happen.

Now this was a full-on game! It was all so quirky:

– strange music

– coins that could unlock secret treasures from magic mushrooms

– a mysterious protagonist who

  • caught casually walking elves with a net so that he can talk to them
  • walked with a jolly pep in his step or performed jumping somersaults mid stride
  • dumped his treasures in front of a crazy King before sliding down into an abyss and then climbing the mountain for the umpteenth time to do it all over again.

There was no logical plot to the game, but it was just absurdly AMAZING!

Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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