Archive for the 'Computer Camp' Category

Only Nerds GOTO Computer Camp (1983)

Radio Shack-1

The kid is Stewart Butterfield. From what I’ve read, “camp” was a room in the back of select stores. The younger kids (8 to 11) learned Logo, and the older kids (12 to 15) learned BASIC.

RadioShack filed for bankruptcy in February of this year.

1983 Club Med Brochure Featuring Atari Village: ‘Learn Hardware and Software in Your Swimwear’

Atari 1983

More, including daily schedule and newspaper/magazine articles about adult computer camp, at Robert A. Kahn & Associates. I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting on a boat that’s being “sailed” by an Atari 800.

Atari ad execs really enjoyed word play on ‘hardware’ and ‘software’.

1982 Atari Computer Camps Brochure

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The computer camp concept was pioneered in 1977 by Dr. Michael Zabinski, a physics and engineering professor at Connecticut’s Fairfield University. Zabinksi had received “several federal grants to train teachers at the University to integrate computers into their classrooms,” and wisely thought of merging summer camp and computer training to reach young people. The first National Computer Camp was held in 1978. NCC is still going.

I talked about the Atari camps, with a breakdown of the hefty cost and daily schedule, here. There was a big push to get girls more involved with the Atari camps, as seen in the 1983 article here. Girls are also heavily represented on the brochure. Unfortunately, the male computer whiz stereotype established in the early ’80s stuck, and the number of women majoring in computer science peaked in 1984 at about 37%. That number has dropped steadily ever since and currently hovers at between 15-20%.

I have no doubt that the camp experience “lasts the rest of your life.” I don’t remember hearing about it at the time, or maybe I did and simply put it out of my head: my parents would never have been able to afford it.

I found the brochure at Robert A. Kahn & Associates, the company that designed it. The PDF is here. You have to admire how many activities were crammed onto the brochure cover, including, for some reason, catching butterflies.

Blip #5 (June, 1983): ‘Technology + Tradition = Summer Fun’

Blip #5 1983-1

Blip #5 1983-8

Blip #5 1983-5

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Blip #5 1983-2

Blip #5 1983-3

Blip #5 1983-4

Blip was Marvel’s short-lived—seven issues only—foray into the video game world. It was colorful but silly, printed on comic stock and marketed to younger kids.

Page two talks about the development of Atari’s E.T., and refers to TRON (the movie) as a “flop.” Ripping every gamer’s favorite flick was probably not a good idea.

The activity on pages 12 and 13 is representative of the entire run. Kids of every age would have found it condescending.

Pages 14 and 16 are about computer camp, one of my favorite subjects. I wrote about the Atari camp here. I love the robot on the lawn chair, even though it’s a clunky (pun intended) metaphor.

And, if you weren’t feeling old enough already, how about the “News Blips” on page 23?

The most amazing feature of the Concept 100 is its satellite hookup. That’s right—this car will actually have a computer that is tuned in to a satellite orbiting in space. What good is this? One big advantage is tracking. If you ever get lost, just order up a map and the satellite will find your car…

Read the whole issue, and the whole run, at

Only Nerds GOTO Computer Camp (1979)

Computers 1979

Computer 1979

Computers 1979-5

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Computers 1979-3

A computer day camp in Chicago, December, 1979. PCs on display include the Apple II, the TRS-80, and the TI-99/4. The latter was brand new at the time. There’s another one I can’t identify to the right of the kid raising his hand. It looks a little like a Commodore PET.

Note the Garfield notebook in the first shot, and the BASIC code in the second. The kid typing the code (you can read all of it starting with line 95) is wearing an Izod sweater.

Terrific all-around coverage of an early lab and the kids who got to use it.

(Photos via eBay seller Historical Images)

Kid Working on Commodore 64, 1987

Commodore 64 1987

October 18, 1987. (Photo: Lyn Alweis/Denver Post)

Did his parents lock him in the basement, or what? At least he’s got his fish to keep him company.

That little keyboard appears to be a Casio VL-Tone clone. The only thing I can make out on the CompuCamp diskette is the Denver area code, 303.

Letter from Computer Camp, 1983

Computer Camp Letter 1983

This beauty is from Ben Ullman’s Flickr. The “microcomputer” he’s talking about is a TRS-80 Model 16, a pretty sophisticated (for the time) business system that sold for $5,000 when released in 1983. With peripherals, it was a lot more.

TRS-80 Ad 1983

TRS-80 Ad 1983

Here’s the main menu for Scripsit, the word processing program written for the TRS-80s.

Scripsit Menu

“I can correct my mistakes on the screen and then print the letter out perfectly.” That line really gets me. It’s hard to imagine now, but what we take for granted as the most basic of conveniences was not very long ago a revolutionary event, as anyone who’s ever had to use a typewriter can tell you.

These days, the suggestion that we correct what we type/text carries the stink of fanaticism, and hard copies are simply food for the shredder.

I hope you snagged a ribbon at one of the races, Ben. Old Acres sounds like a nice place to spend the summer.

(TRS-80 and Scripsit images via Connecting the DotsZDNet, and Wikipedia)

Computer Camp Certificate, 1981

computer camp certificate

Dimmerswitch, the lucky recipient of this awesome certificate, says it was awarded in 1981. Pascal was serious business! I couldn’t even hack BASIC.

Only Nerds GOTO Computer Camp (1983/1984)

Via debbykratky/Flickr. I do believe that’s my dream computer, the IBM PC XT, which came out in 1983.

Atari Computer Camp Ads, 1983

Atari 1983

Atari 1983-2

Classic 1983 ads via Laura Moncur’s Flickr. Laura also found an article in Atari’s Antic magazine called “Computer Camp: Report from the Old West” that describes the camps in detail.

Campers paid $890 for a two-week session and $425 for each additional week, up to a total of 8 weeks. But if you stayed the whole 8 weeks you got a tuition break and paid the one time, low, low price of $2999. Don’t forget to bring your transportable cellular phone system, kids! You’ll need to call mom if you lose your Snoopy doll.

The daily schedule looked like this:

9:00-10:25 – Computer Instruction
10:30-11:10 – Drama
11:15-12:00 – Tennis
12:00-1:55 – Lunch (Rest Hour)
2:00-2:55 – Computer Workshop
3:00-3:35 – Free Swim
4:00-5:25 – Softball

7:00-8:30 – Free Time

I imagine 5:30-7:00 was dinner. “During free time… at least two of the three computer rooms are open for students either to play games or practice programming.”

My favorite part is a quote from the camp’s co-director, Marlene Applebaum:

We also had a whole group playing Dungeons and Dragons… Not on the computer, but the original game. One of the counselors really knows that game and played Dungeon-master. I think that goes along with the kind of child who comes here.

I think you’re right, Marlene.




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