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Oregon Trail or Bust. By McClain

I attended the TechNet Asia Computer Expo. It's a smaller version of COMDEX for local residents who can't fly to Vegas. It was an interesting experience full of free pencils and mouse pads. All of which were so ugly I wouldn't use them to de-wax my ears.

"Look at all the shitheads with glasses!" I thought to myself as I stepped in the expo. If you were to stack every lens from all the spectacles one on top of the other you'd have a pile high enough to climb Steve Ballmer's C++ book collection, wherein you'd probably get a nose bleed because that's what happens when nerds elevate. 

The first booth I visited was comprised of a makeshift display table and an index card with the business name scribbled sloppily and off center. The card said "Code Masters," and assumingly the guy claimed to be versed in any form of computer language.

So I asked him to tell me a little bit about his fascination with coding. I interrupted him receiving a beam of cartoon porn from a Palm user one booth over. I caught him off guard and he was a bit humiliated.

"I go to bed at night and dream of coding. Some nights it's hard for me to sleep because I have rows of command output scrolling through my brain," he said while fumbling to conceal the screen of his Palm Pilot.

Palm Pilot Cartoon Porn? It's a sad, sad world...
Palm Pilot Cartoon Porn? It's a sad, sad world...

"What kind of coding?" I asked the social washout. He thought I was one of "them".
"Typically my dreams start off easy and I'll do a few lines of Unix."
"Is that a designer drug?" It was an innocent question from a guilty boy.
"No! Unix is a programming language," he tisked. "It's one of the more complex languages."
"Could I learn from 'Unix for Dummies?'" I think he realized I was a novice to the coding culture.
"I'm not familiar with that book," he said, then started shuffling through some promotional floppy disks. 
"What's on the disks?" I inquired. 
"It's promotional information. You put it in your alpha drive and it contains a hyperlink to my universal resource locator. I've yet to secure proper hosting from my domain bank, but as long as my online registry is queued I should be in good shape. Assuming they included a redirection command in my META tags!"

Uhh... Yeah. Sure. 

"So, do you have any disks with Oregon Trail?" I was so lost I could hear marmosets snacking on trefoils in outer space. 

"You should browse the gaming exhibits in the back of the expo."

So he went back to beaming information with his neighbor. Then he stood up and faced the other guy. "Stand by to receive digital transfer of data!" he said somberly. This guy was the mayor of Nerdville. 

I learned a little trick during one of my morning office meetings. My boss said something like, "Roger, did you enter the log numbers into the database this morning?" And Roger replied, "Yes sir. Iíll beam them over to you right away." At this point, Roger commanded the Palm Pilot with his stylus and then held it in the air in a "Heil Hitler" type fashion, as did my boss with his Palm device. At the time of this I was playing my favorite game "Drug Wars" on my newly obtained Hand Spring Visor (No, I'd never buy one. I won it on the net. Thanks eFederal.com!) when a screen prompt came on in the middle of gaming. I was pissed, too. I was about to pick up $354,000 worth of Quaaludes from a dead bum in the subway. Unknowingly, I pressed the "accept beam" button and like that I received the database entry that was sent from Roger and intended for my boss.

Knowing that I can intercept a beam from one Palm to another, I nonchalantly walked in between the compunerds and snatched the file right out of the air. They got pretty pissed, so I hightailed to the back of the expo.

I opened the file they were beaming and it turned out the whole time I was talking to the nerdy guy the two of them were exchanging Palm warez and payphone cracker info. How lame are these guys?! 

"Snort! Hereís the latest underground news on Linux along with some Hentai babes my little brother got from an Swedish cartoon porn W3!" I envision nerds doing nerdy things. 

So I walked to the back of the expo, typically where you'll find bootleg copies of Matrix on DVD or pirated Chinese computer programs. Being in the back made me realize that the two nerds in the front need to relocate with all the other computer criminals. 

After noticing nerd booth after nerd booth, the conversation of a couple salesmen caught my ear;

Randall: This guy's boss tells him to backup his original point and click interface, so the guy whips out a 9 millimeter and says, 'This is the original point and click interface!'
Samuel: Holy Pascal, Batman! I'm ROTFLMAO!

This is where I interrupted. 

Me: I've got 64MB, why don't you RAM it up my ass!
Samuel: Heard it before. Not funny.
Randall: Beat it you web designer. 
[laughter]

Skip back two days: 
My girlfriend had dragged me to the local Goodwill to pick up some gag party favors for a social event we were going to attend that night. Okay, I'm lying. We were Christmas shopping. Anyway, I was perusing around the back-end of the dump when I noticed the original floppy diskettes (5 ľ!) radiating that virgin-aura that only vintage computer software can. I slowly approached the cabinet that housed the disks and to my surprise it was Oregon Trail!

Nostalgia set in and immediately I was a 3rd-grader again, impatiently sitting in front of an Apple computer, beating the shit out of the keyboard because I continued to get dysentery and my goddamn wagon wheels kept breaking.

l33t Apple IIe 5 1/4 drive!
Ah the good old days when computers were all about shooting some buffalo...

This was about the same time in my life I realized that I sucked at math. Playing Number Munchers was about as complicated to me as image resolution would have been to Helen Keller. But thatís what computing was to me. It consisted of inserting that delicate disk and playing until you had to turn the disk over. And even once you turned it over it would keep telling you to turn it over, like somehow, by turning it over 50 billion times, the computer found humor in watching you bumble around like an idiot getting all pissed off that it won't read the friggin' floppy drive, causing you to curse and flailing your fists whilst screaming "FOR THE LOVE OF BREASTMILK WOULD YOU FUCKING WORK ALREADY!?" By all means, this was not the birth of a computer nerd. I still consider my virtual ass to be virgin and free of nerdom rape. 

Seeing the 5 ľ" floppy disks gave me a couple ideas. One was to find that one game where youíre a helicopter and youíre flying around dodging tank bullets and retrieving POWís from little huts. Anybody have a clue what the hell Iím talking about? (McClain is referring to the classic game "Choplifter") The second idea that sparked from this romantic memory was to buy the blank disks and hand them out at the computer exposition.

Choplifter!
Choplifter: Save the hostages, or let 'em die)

Somehow I would get a hold of an old apple or some mock IBM with the proper drive so that I could program some garbage on to the disks. Now I realize that most people donít even have access to a computer that would be able to display the message left on the disk, but the rewarding part would be to see if anyone actually went to great enough lengths to do so. 

Skip back ahead two days to the computer expo:
I was standing in between a prominent e-commerce booth and a web design team waving archaic disks in my hand. I didnít even really have the time to label them. All I had done was put a synopsis of my stuff on the disk. When people would ask me what I was selling, I would look at them as if they were rapists and say "I'm selling baby shit in diapers." Most people just kept walking, but I seemed to have intrigued a few people, because not only did they come by once to get a disk, but they came by again, except this time with a friend. These are the die-hard cult. I love them all, every bastard one.

It was spreading like wildfire. Old, old, obsolete wildfire. I also offered to beam my entire address book to anyone who was interested. "Consider it a bonus!" I would tell people. Mother, if you get strange calls from people named "pr0n phr34k" or "133t h4x0r" just hang up the phone. 

Then the Code Geek approached me.
"Can I have one of those disks?"
I looked him straight in the eye and said, "No." 

The entire event had given me a wonderful feeling. It reminded me of the simple joy that came from popping in one of those flat floppy disks in to an old Apple computer. If we were lucky it was color-screened. And at the time, how onerous the input system seemed to be. And finally, it made me realize how far we as people have come since the days of Apple II, myself in particular, to recognizing code. What was once impossible text that only the most brilliant of minds, minds that move in 100 different directions at once could understand, was now clear to me. Okay, not really, but when you're standing in a room with hundreds of insanely intelligent people, and you just so happen to be making a fool of yourself, you're forced to rationalize.

I got plenty of dirty looks that day, but it was okay with me because I had found a fragment of inner peace. And even though I was politely asked to leave TechNet Asia, I was happy with myself. 

I had been saving up money for quite some time so that I could fully purchase my dream super computer with every peripheral I could ever want. CD Rewriter, DVD, Zip, dual 40GB hard drives, optimum sound/video card, T1 fiber optic Internet connection, 64 MB 3D PCI card, Pentium III processor and more. 

I put that dream on the back burner and searched for an old Apple IIe.

Oregon Trail or bust.

-McClain "300 BAUD BOY" Shewman. 

BONUS:

If you don't have the 2 cents that it would cost to buy an Apple IIe and a copy of
"Oregon Trail", don't worry about it. We here at I-Mockery have the next best thing!

Just download the following two files and you can play the
ORIGINAL Apple IIe version of "Oregon Trail" on your computer!
(Unless you're on a Mac, in which case, you're fucked.)

Oregon Trail Rom

Apple IIe Rom Player

Oregon Trail on the Apple IIe
(Just look at it! You KNOW you want to play it!)


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