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Bill Loguidice's picture

Amelie's Story Machine - Edutainment on an Atari 800

Alphabet Zoo (1983)Alphabet Zoo (1983)As many of you know, I have a large collection of vintage hardware and software, and, as is par for the course in collecting, I've ended up with certain atypical software genres either by design or simply because they were included with other things. One facet of my collection that fits that definition are all of the educational titles I have for various consoles and computers. As many of you may also know, Christina and I have two daughters, Amelie, who just turned 6, and Olivia, who just turned 4. They're obviously right at the age where it's use it or never use it time for some of this educational software. The good thing is that our girls have grown up around this stuff, and that, combined with what comes naturally to children, makes them ideal users. I decided that instead of taking the easier way and going console (the CD-i and VIS platforms in particular come to mind, but I have many others that have at least a few titles on them), I'd use it as an excuse to break out one of my older computers. It was a toss up between the C-64, Atari 8-bit and Apple II, since those three systems feature the most educational software of the old computers in my collection. I had already spent enough time with the C-64 and had broken out the Apple II stuff a few times before, so I decided to go with the Atari 8-bit for this attempt with my daughters.

Here's what happened:

Matt Barton's picture

Matt's Journey on The Oregon Trail

I can think of very few "edutainment" titles that have inspired the deep, long-lasting veneration earned by MECC's The Oregon Trail. Originally a mainframe game, The Oregon Trail was designed by three student teachers at Carleton College in Minnesota. It was a nice collaboration--Don Rawitsch was a history instructor, whereas Bill Heinemeann and Paul Dillenberger were math teachers. The three of them put their heads together to figure out a way to use computers to teach kids, and Don's historical background gave him the key insights necessary to create The Oregon Trail.

States (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

The States Overlay: Alternative solution to the immigration issue; move Alaska and Hawaii into Mexico!The States Overlay: Alternative solution to the immigration issue; move Alaska and Hawaii into Mexico!This title is purely and quite overtly an edutainment title making its debut long before the term was ever coined. Analogic may have concealed its arithmetic stylings in a sci-fi envelope, but nobody would mistake States as being anything but an enthusiastic attempt to capture the hearts and wallets of America's education-minded parents.

The overlay is a map of the good 'ol United States of America, which wouldn't be complete if they didn't have the Alaska/Hawaii combo scaled-to-fit and hovering over a vanished Mexico. The off-screen props consist of 50 cards, an answer brochure entitled “Affairs of States” and a “study map”. The 50 cards each highlight a specific state with three questions about the state. The answer brochure is exactly what it sounds like, and is handier than dragging out an encyclopedia. The "study map" is a paper version of the overlay, and reminds me of the type of placemat they give kids to color while waiting for their order at a Denny's(tm) or an IHoP(tm).

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