My Summer at Computer Camp, a short presentation for Nerd Night
I wasn’t a very athletic kid, nor was i sharp with whittling or tying knots, in fact i quit cub scouts when i failed to make the webelos by dint of not carving an owl out of balsa wood, but i, like other kids, had to find somewhere to go in the summer time, my parents simply would not have me loafing around the house while they were at work for 2 and a half months of the year. So it came to be that between 4th and 5th grades, after my month in summer school, in which i probobly did make-up math classes, i elected to join my buddy Alex at Computer Camp.
Camp Winthers is 3 miles south of soda springs off interstate 80 in the mountains, as a good summer camp should be, and we bussed there from our suburb all together in a unified school district yellow bus, huddled with our books and gameboys and comparing snack caches. the only candy i had were those little multi-colored sugar buttons that come on wax paper, this is my only memory of those candies, maybe because they are gross and i learned my lesson.
the bus ride was an excellent opportunity to show my awesome but somewhat sheltered friend alex some of the guerrila-war tactics i’d perfected in my long schoolbus career. i’d brought along a few drinking straws and q-tips, which seperate seem like harmless camp supplies, but together make a very effective blow-gun of medium-range accuracy. we managed to keep our identities secret for about 15 minutes as we terrorized the bus cabin from our back seat vantage point, but once we were outted it was full scale war. kids broke into factions, weapons were chosen, spitballs, jollyranchers, playing cards, some managed to deploy an airforce of paper airplanes. eventually peace was declared, and we turned our arsenal outwards to passing cars.
drawn by Juli Boggs
arriving at the camp we discovered that it was a multi-purpose facility, actually 2 summer camps in 1. emptying from busses across the parking lot was a large group of noticeably rowdier, generally taller, probobly older, and obviously healthier looking kids. turns out this was a combination computer/basketball camp. i think there might have been girls there too, but it didnt matter because they didnt really exist at that point. after our camper orientation and introduction to our counselor, Alex and i wasted no time in settling into our canvas tent. we had 2 other boys rooming with us who’s names i forget so let’s call them something fun like Porgy and Bess. Porgy was evidently rich, in kid terms, he had a cell phone that he would carry around, whether he had service or anyone to call or not i dont know, he was also chubby, and had a seemingly bottomless candy account at the camp store. Bess was a shy shy kid, either younger or just plain lamer than alex and i, always threatening to tell when we’d cuss, or crying when we’d tell ghost and murder stories at night. we decided we wouldnt spend much time in our tent. the next day, after a giggling farting night of half-sleep, we were introduced to the computer lab and led to our very own macintosh Performa 6400 to begin our programming education.
We used a program called Stagecast to create 2D games. basically the program allowed you to choose or create sprites or icons with non-graphical properties or rules that determine their behaviour and lay them in a 2D environment. for example, one could choose a very poorly rendered cartoon gerbil and set it on a line of “grass” icons along the bottom of the screen, then place an obstacle in its path to the right, lets say a cactus. the gerbil can be given a rule like “when there is no icon to the right of gerbil, gerbil advances right” then “when there is a cactus to the right of gerbil, gerbil advances up, then right, then right, then down”, hence jumping the dangerous obstacle and completing the adventure. we were in computer lab for 5 hours a day following instructions and programming sprites. at the end of the week my finished game consisted of a lazer-gun-wielding sheep that could skim back and forth along the bottom of the screen under an ever-shifting canopy of clouds. the clouds were inhabited by adult male gorrillas, and the icons would shift in a labryinth of targets. with patience and skill, one could shoot down each of the simians and win the game. i called it, creatively, “Monkey Blaster”.
drawn by Juli
The rest of the time at camp was spent doing outdoorsy type things that alex and i loathed. i particularly remember one episode of “fun” wherein we were woken up at 6am for a “polar bear swim” in the lake, from which i contracted giardia, a genus of anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasite that colonise and reproduce in the small intestines of several vertebrates, including me. The symptoms of Giardia, which may begin to appear 2 days after infection, include violent diarrhea, excess gas, stomach or abdominal cramps, upset stomach, and nausea. After 1-2 days of diarrhea, the opposite occurs, constipation for 4-7 days, still with acute gas production due to the parasite producing iron-sulfer proteins. basically i smelled and felt like a rotten egg for 2 weeks.
well thats pretty much the story, i left out some details but anyone whos been to summer camp remembers the motif, camp fires, dining hall spaghetti, hiking up mountains, performing skits, shooting a bow and arrow. I didnt fall in love but i did make one new friend, he was an older kid who had been going to the camp for years and alex already knew him, total goofball, he made us call him by his invented nickname “cap” but his real name was “Otzo” which is much cooler. Here’s a picture of Alex and I at our 8th grade graduation. He went on to get a degree in philosophy, which is awesome because we use to walk around the playground together at recess, playing imagination games and throwing around ideas like “what if the dinosaurs were actually super intelligent, foresaw their own extinction, and destroyed all evidence of their civilization?” calling ourselves philosophers. he works for google now, on the very edge of human evolution and technology. I work at a pizza place, but we still hang.