Programming Instructor, Rocky Mountain Computer Camps, 1982-3
Saturday, March 19, 2005 at 09:56PM
Political Mammal in My personal history

I spent two high school summers, 1982 and 1983, as a computer programming aide/instructor and camp counselor at the Rocky Mountain Computer Camps in Wild Basin, Colorado. I had always spent summers with my family in Vermont and I missed that, but instead I got paid to have fun, hike, teach, and hang out with a bunch of kids and other counselors and teachers in a beautiful national park setting. It was an extraordinarily gentle transition toward working life and a great experience.

My clearest memories are of the outdoor activities: we hiked to Copeland Falls, Ouzel Falls, Calypso Cascades and to lovely lakes and mountains in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I got to ride a trail horse, play awesome games of capture-the-flag on the wooded side of a hill, play volleyball, have campfires, live in a cabin, camp out, and have other adventures. We tossed a few campers in the lake in the middle of the night in a practice that we called “keelhauling.” Once I got thrown in myself by a relentless swarm of young campers taking revenge. I went running on the area roads, visiting small towns like Allenspark and Meeker.

I also enjoyed the computer education part of the program. I think the summers were pretty successful. They must have been fairly early in the history of computer camps since personal computers were still getting established. I was the resident whiz on the Apple II computers that we used – such skills were considerably more rare then than they are now -- and I always liked teaching. I remember programming a battleship game with one of the students. I know that I added a little creativity to the lessons; I remember amusing myself by teaching some kids that there were 4 bits in a nybble, two nybbles in a byte (all true) and sixteen bytes in a chomp (not true, so far as I know.)

I have located a couple of souvenirs left from that time, now well over twenty years ago. One was a staff evaluation of the program after its first year. There seems to have been some controversy about the success of the ecological/environmental part of the educational program, but a general sense that it went pretty well. I also have a roster from one of the sessions. I have only a vague recollection of most of the campers on the list, though I recognize a 17-year-old female camper on whom I had a crush. I wonder how many of those kids ended up in computer-related professions. I also have one completed questionnaire by an incoming camper. It included questions like “Can you write a program to alphabetize a list of names?” I am confident that the campers left knowing how to do such things -- a lot more than when they arrived.

Most alarmingly, considering that I was a pretty immature sixteen or seventeen-year old back then, I also found a copy of my evaluation by the adult staff after one of the summers. According to that document, my weaknesses were that I was sloppy (cited by multiple people), a little impatient with less intelligent kids, and that I sometimes resented being asked to do things like clean up. On the plus side, I got high marks for knowledge about computers, sense of humor, leadership, being a good sport, and having a positive influence on the attitudes of the campers. Whew.

All in all, those were two very enjoyable summers.

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