Origins: Computer Use

Computers and Winter Camp have been together since Winter Camp II in 1978. That marked the first year that a member of Downriver Chapter owned a computer.

Long hours were spent by then novice programmers Jeff Rand and Steve Donohue as they attempted to create a roster program for Winter Camp. They were hindered in their efforts by the technology available.

Using a Radio Shack Model I computer with a cassette storage system made saving and loading programs more of an art than a science. On the night that the roster program was written, Mike's computer was behaving very strangely, erasing and changing data seemingly at random. It took several attempts to record the program saving "adviser'' rather than "adtiser."

By Winter Camp III home computing in Downriver Chapter had made a quantum leap, as Mike Osvath finally purchased a disk drive for his system. New programs were developed and the computer was finally a useful tool rather than an interesting toy.

Winter Camp IV saw the first serious use of the new technology at Winter Camp. Two more Winter Campers, Steve Donohue and Jeff Rand, had purchased computers, and had written many programs for Winter Camp, including the Murder Game, Directional Distance Analysis, the Volkswagen race, and the craps game. Arcade type games were available and the virulent plague known as rat-a-tat-tatting was born. Many campers spent excessive amounts of time playing new and interesting games. Some deprived themselves of sleep just to gain a few extra moments with their beloved games.

At Winter Camp V Jeff Rand wrote a program which charged Winter campers for every minute they spent playing the games. For the first time in history, a computer other than a Radio Shack appeared. Mr. Horn brought an Apple IIC to Winter Camp.

The number of computers at Winter Camp remained fairly steady until Winter Camp X. At Winter Camp X, Mike Osvath brought an AT&T PC6300, the first IBM compatible to appear at Winter Camp. The arrival of this computer, and the growingly affordable price of home computers sparked a build-up of computers at camp which peaked at Winter Camp XII with an unprecedented 11 computers on-hand.

The incredible number of computers at Winter Camp XII triggered a backlash against computers, and only 4 made it to Winter Camp. Mike brought a Radio Shack Model IV and his AT&T (which died early in the weekette). Jeff brought a computer to camp for the first time which was used solely to monitor the latrines, and the fourth computer was the first Macintosh to attend camp. It was brought by Ron Donohue and used solely for work.


Computers continue to play an important role at Winter Camp, but they are not the novelty they once were and so they don't spawn rat-a-tat-tatters like they once did. Their role now is more as support articles, used to produce reports, rules and props needed to facilitate other activities, rather than to provide the activities themselves.

The other major effect of computers on Winter Camp is this page. Through the various interactive sections like the discussion board and the suggestions areas, it is now possible to think about Winter Camp on a year-round basis. The content of the page also puts more information about Winter Camp into the hands of more people than ever before. The effects of this are not yet known, although this year did mark the earliest large-scale planning session in Winter Camp history, a feat largely accomplished through the use of this page.

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