An Oregon Trail Postscript

01 Jun

My good friend Harry Kaplan recently sent me a link to a little Oregon Trail short story by Caitlin Horrocks. The whole joke here — and it’s a cute one — is in the fun it pokes at the game’s narrative limitations. However, it’s also interesting that its storyworld could inspire an established writer in this way, even if the result is more gentle satire than gritty reality. It just reinforces my view of The Oregon Trail as the first really successful ludic narrative — more successful on a narrative level, actually, than Adventure. (Does anyone imagine herself inside Adventure‘s storyworld like so many do inside that of The Oregon Trail?) If I taught junior-high or high-school English, I might have my students each play the game and “novelize” the story that results, even at the risk of reading dozens of reenactments of the Donner Party tragedy, just to see what they came up with.



5 Responses to An Oregon Trail Postscript

  1. Jason Stevens

    August 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I have a question, a dumb one at that… I’ve been strugling trying to load basic programs into the SIMH HP2100 to no avail… Is it even possible? From what I’ve tried I setup SIMH like this:

    set cpu 16
    set ptr dev=10
    set tty dev=11
    set ptp dev=12
    lo basic1.abs
    att ptr oregon75.bas
    go 100

    Then I’m thrown into basic but I can’t figure out how to load.. I mean it ought to be able to load from tape right? Maybe basic1.abs just can’t handle it?

    Also you’ve got a FANTASTIC blog, I wish I’d found it earlier!

    Sorry for being such a n00b.

    • Jimmy Maher

      August 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm


      I don’t think the setup you describe is simulating anything like a real HP Time-Shared BASIC system. Time-Shared BASIC (one of several operating systems available for the HP-2100 line) actually required TWO HP-2100 systems, one managing the terminals and acting as a sort of gateway and the other running the OS proper. To simulate the system using SIMH, you therefore actually need to run two instances of the emulator on your computer, one for each role. To get the experience of a normal BASIC user, you then telnet in via the loopback address (

      I’d recommend you join the Yahoo! group dedicated to the HP-2000 line. (They are also the ones that maintain mickey, the system on which you can play the Oregon Trail.) They’re at In the group’s file section you’ll find a Time-Shared BASIC setup that should get you started.

      To load programs into the simulator after you get Time-Shared BASIC up and running, the easiest thing to do is just copy and paste the BASIC code into your terminal session. (This isn’t possible using Mickey because the latency is just too great, but should be possible on your local host.) You can then just SAVE the program to your virtual disk.

      Hope this helps…

    • John Rayfield

      March 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Use the keyword OLD to load from tape

  2. Rob

    November 26, 2012 at 12:04 am

    For those reading through your archives (like me), here is a working link to Caitlin’s short story:

    • Jimmy Maher

      December 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Thanks! I’ve updated the link in the original post.


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