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The humble beginnings of 'The Oregon Trail'

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The Oregon Trail dysentery
The Oregon Trail dysentery

Before The Oregon Trail touched the lives of countless Millennials (and taught them the dangers of dysentery), someone had to come up with the idea of turning the deadly cross-country trip into a game. It turns out three college-aged Minnesota middle school teachers back in 1971 whipped up the original code for the game in just two weeks to try and get their students interested in the Western Expansion. The text-only game ran on a teletype machine — a glorified typewriter connected to a computer mainframe by a phone line — and algorithms would determine the travelers' fates based on how much money students spent or how quickly they could type "bang" to go hunting. When the semester ended the game was deleted, but a printed out copy of the code was used to build a new version of the game in later years that ultimately took the country by storm. Be sure to check out Mental Floss for the full story.