A Serious Game from 1976

Some people seem to think that “serious games” (which term is merely the latest buzzword for what used to be called “educational games”, then “edutainment”) are a new idea. That’s ludicrous; people have been talking about educational applications of computers since the 1960s, and actually doing something about it since the late 60s. Here is my own contribution to that history. In 1976, I was teaching physics at a community college in Nebraska, and I wrote  up a game in FORTRAN for my students to play to learn about orbital motion. I called the game “Black Hole Chicken”, because the goal of the game was to adjust your orbit to sweep as close to the event horizon as possible without actually crossing it. In other words, play chicken with a black hole. 

Just yesterday, while digging through some old papers, I came across the handout I gave students to play the game. The next six images show that handout. After that are the punched cards that I gave them to boot the program from the computer. That computer was an IBM 1130, which is shown in the last picture.

This was 37 years ago as I write this page.


IBM 1130