SUMMER FUN ATARI STYLE
CAMPS, CLASSES, MUSEUMS AND MOREby GIGI BISSON, Antic Assistant Editor
We are the PacMen, tall and straight, in our feathers and war paint. Pow Wow. Pow Wow. We are the men of A-tar-i. -variation on a classic camp song
When children aren't squealing and laughing, you can hear the sounds of summer. The wind rustling the leaves, rushing water, the chatter of frogs and crickets.., and little fingers busily tap-tapping away at the keyboard. Logo and lakes, silicon and sunshine, computing and campfires? It may seem like a strange combination, but computers have now become a fixture at one of the most traditional of American institutions-the summer camp.
The contemporary summer camp, no matter how remote, is not only likely to generate its own electricity to power all those computers, it might also have a color photography darkroom, a ham radio station, or an electronics and robotics workshop. Marshmallow roasts and campfires aren't enough anymore-camping is now an educational exprience.
"It's more likely for Camp Tall Teepees to offer computers than it is to find a Tall Teepees Computer Camp." says Jim Le Mon of the American Camping Association. Le Mon says there are three kinds of computer camps-traditional camps that offer computing plus a wide range of outdoor activities, computer camps that concentrate on computing and offer some outdoor activities, or day camps that are really computer workshops.
If there is any news about computer-only camps, it's that many no longer exist. The nationwide chain of Atari-sponsored computer camps shut down when Jack Tramiel purchased the company. The largest chain of computer camps in the nation, Original Computer Camp, also closed its doors in 1984.
Camp directors say that computer camps lost favor when most schools started teaching computing as a regular activity. "When the price of computers dropped, that hurt us the most," says Roy Oken, director of now-defunct River Way Ranch Computer Camp. "It got cheaper to buy your kids a computer than sending them to camp for a week."
The most successful computer camps blend camping with nature. "With all that outdoor activity, why would kids want to be penned up inside?" says Warren Darner, the computing teacher at Camp Regis Applejack in New York's Adirondack mountains. Darner's roomful of VIC20s has to compete with seven tennis courts, a 22-boat sailing and motorboat fleet, and a performing arts studio. "But we do get real busy on a rainy day." he says.
Nevertheless, the best computer camps are still thriving.
I found 337 different camps that offer computing as an activity-and that
only includes camps accredited by the American Camping Association.
WHY A COMPUTER CAMP?
There are three good reasons to send your kids to a computer camp:
1. Schools with anemic budgets can't privide adequate computer instruction. If schools do have computers, kids often have spend more time waiting in long lines than they do online. One alternative for concerned parents is a computer camp.
2. Some kids love computers so much that they refuse to go unless there's a computer at camp.
3. You're afraid your kids are turning into hackers and you hope they'll learn how to swim, sail, hike and get some fresh air.
The camp setting offers an opportunity to become immersed in computers-even three hours of computer instruction a day is a lot more than they'll ever get at school. Kids don't just learn how to use a word processor-they use it to write letters home to mom and dad. Arts and crafts could be pressing wildflowers one day, and designing a weaving pattern on a computer the next.
But as with anything that's Atari-specialized in the Apple-dominated world of educational computing, finding a camp that uses Atari computers involves a diligent search. Here are a few to get you started:
WHERE TO FIND A CAMP
The premiere camping resource is the American Camping Association (ACA) Annual Parent's Guide to Accredited Camps. This 253-page nationwide directory lists only camps accredited by the ACA. It indexes them by name, activities, location and special programs such as camps for hemophiliacs or the blind.
Most importantly, the ACA catalog lets you compare prices. That alone is worth the $8.95 price of the book, ($10.95 outside the continental US.), which is refunded if you enroll in one of the thousands of ACA-approved camps for at least 14 days. For an additional $10, the ACA computers will select a list of 10 camps meeting your special needs.
ACA Parents Guide, 100 Bradford Woods, Martinsville, IN 46151, (800) 428-CAMP
For additional camp listings in the Easern US, check
the camping advertisement sections of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
For Western camps, check Sunset Magazine.
"Camp Diana-Dalmaqua is a very traditional camp," says director Judy Alter. Traditional, huh? DianaDalmaqa may offer those good old-fashioned camp activities like nature and science, swimming on a 30-acre lake and pioneering. But it also has go-karting, and programming on 12 Atari computers. One of the oldest facilities in the U.S., this co-educational camp 85 miles north of New York City was extablished in 1928.
Camp Diana-Dalmaqua, 209 Traymore Boulevard, island Park, NY 11558. (516) 431-0641.
FORESTRY AND FORTRAN
They may have a hokey advertisment featuring a girl hacking on a computer as she lies down on a diving board dangerously close to a swimming pool full of water. But don't be fooled. Midwest Computer Camp is the Cadillac of computer camps and one of the few that offers nearly every conceivable model of computer from Atari to VIC-20. Students are encouraged to use a variety of different computers to develop true skill with the language or application they are learning. They can choose from BASIC, Pascal, Fortran, COBOL, Pilot, Logo and assembly language. And they can learn about robotics, lasers, holography, and how to run a bulletin board.
Computing comes first, but not at the expense of nature. Lynn Crawford, founder and "Chief Kid" of Midwest Computer Camp is a wildlife refuge developer as well as a programmer. For him, balancing both technology and nature is a priority Kids spend six hours on the computers every day and six hours outside.
Situated on a magnificent old estate in a wilderness area northwest of Indianapolis, Indiana, the camp has secluded trails for hiking and bird watching, a reservoir and grazing deer. Computer classes are taught by computing professionals in a huge colonial-style education center with classrooms and large meeting rooms. Activities range from Dungeons and Dragons games to forestry and astronomy. All of this costs $750 for two weeks for boys and girls aged 8 to 18. A year-round weekend camp for adults and families costs $60.
Crawford firmly believes that kids who learn how to use computers properly will have a better chance of succeeding in a world which, upon their adulthood, will be pervaded with the machines. "We are teaching tomorrow's teachers," he says.
Midwest Computer Camp, 9392 Lafayette Road, Indianapolis, IN 46278. (317) 297-2700.
YMCA Camp Ralph Mason in Blairstown, New Jersey offers swimming, horseback riding, Honda bikes, canoe trips and programming on Atari and Apple computers for kids 8-16.
YMCA Camp Ralph Mason, Route 3, Box 41, Blairstown, NJ 07825. (201) 362-8217.
SUMMER COLLEGE FOR ALL
Many colleges and universities also offer summer computer camps and workshops for the general public, in order to utilize idle campus computer facilities. Contact the extended education department of the university nearest you. It couldn't hurt to ask.
The following colleges offer summer computer education instruction for teachers, leading to Education degrees. And all these campuses utilize Atari 800 computers: University of Wisconsin, Madison; Western Washington University, Bellingham; Lesley College, Cambridge, MA; Fresno Pacific College, CA; and Barry University of Miami, FL.
CIRCUS AND COMPUTERS
"Dear Mom: Having a great time. I learned PASCAL and C language in computer class. Yesterday I did a double flip on the trapeze, then ate fire. Please send some more floppy disks. Love, Billy"
This is a letter from a camp for the '80's. And yes, Billy really can learn how to eat fire at New England Computer Camp, located on the campus of an elegant Tudor-style boarding school surrounded by forest.
"It all started with a counselor who knew how to juggle," says Camp Director Clark Adams, "then it just grew into a circus program that'll knock your socks off." Now NECC has expert trainers from the Flying High Circus of Florida State University, complete with high-wire walking. But the circus takes second stage to computing in Pascal, Assembly language, C, Forth, APL, LISP and exploring the HERO-l robot. If you don't mind sending the kids to (horrors!) a non-Atari camp, or the $945 fee for a two-week session, this unique program might be the perfect balance of mental activity and non-competitive physical activity for your child.
New England Computer Camp, 79 Ringgold Street, West Hartford, CT 06119.
FAMILY COMPUTER VACATIONS
There's one very good reason to combine computers with your next vacation-if the computer instruction enhances your work skills, the seminar portion of the vacation qualifies as a tax deduction.
"This summer, don't just send your children to a computer camp. Come with them." So says the brochure for Family Computer Camp. Located on the 600-acre wooded campus of Clarkson University near the Canadian border in Potsdam, New York, this is one of the few camps that makes computing a family affair.
"It's a good opportunity for a professional to learn a valuable job skill while enjoying a summer vacation for the whole family," says director Estella Bray Mom and Dad learn word processing, Lotus 1-2-3, and dBase-II on IBM-compatible Zenith Z100 computers. Teenagers learn how to program in BASIC, with an emphasis on graphics and game-writing technique, on Atari 400 and 800 computers. Kids 8-13 learn graphics, BASIC and word processing on the Ataris. The little ones, 5-7, learn how to program in Logo on the Apple II and Commodore VIC-20. The instructors are professional educators and engineers.
A typical day includes six hours of class and computer labs and plenty of time to play volleyball, tennis and golf, enjoy the hiking trails and swimming pool, or go canoeing on the nearby St. Lawrence river. This summer, there will be a field trip to a local music theater, and visits to the computer aided design/manufacturing and robotics laboratories at the university But the most rewarding part of the experience, Bray says, "is getting three generations together." The week's tuition is $250 per person for the first two family members, and $190 for each additional member. The whole family can stay in a two-bedroom townhouse for an additional $158.
Family Computer Camp, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY 13676. (315)
ATARIS IN PARADISE
Q: Why go to Club Med to use computers? A: Nobody says you have to use them. In four years, the computing programs have become one of the star attractions at these famous international beachfront resorts. The practicality of combining a vacation with learning a skill seems to be especially popular with Japaneese families. Each day, your most agonizing decision at Club Med will be whether to lie on the beach all day, or learn how to program an Atari 800 computer in BASIC.
There are now eight Atari computer classrooms in Club Med villages: Eleuthera, Bahamas; La Caravelle, French Guadadeloupe; Ixtapa, Mexico; Marbella, Spain; Noumea, New Caledonia; African Village, Senegal; and Cherating, Malaysia. For information, phone (800) 528-3100.
COMPUTER TOURIST STOPS
We wouldn't recommend touring Silicon Valley during the summer months (insufferably hot and smoggy,), but the Lawrence Hall of Science, 50 miles to the north of Sunnyvale on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is a great place to take the whole family A computer and science museum of sorts, The Lawrence Hall of Science offers Atari computer courses all summer long The eight-session courses cost $70. Kids from grades 5-7 learn color and sound. Grades 6-12 can take Computer Conversation, a speech synthesis class. Programming classes in Pilot are available for grades 4-8. The lawrence Hall of Science also runs a highly acclaimed science summer camp tucked away in the beautiful coastal redwoods of California's Santa Cruz mountains. The Hall itself is open to the public every day from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is $2.50 for adults, $1.50 for children 7-to-18, senior citizens and students, and free for kids under 7. Phone (415) 642-5134.
If you do find yourself in Silicon Valley, stop by the Computer Literacy Bookstore. This is the only bookstore in the country that speciqlizes in literature on high technology and electronics Wedged between a sandwich shop and an office supply store in the heart of a Sunnyvale industrial park, this little shop is packed floor to ceiling with over 15,000 volumes.
There is a whole section of books applicable to Atari computers; and racks filled with every major computer magazine on the market. Co-owners Rachel Unkefer and Dan Doernberg who founded the store in March, 1983, provide a special ordering service. If you want a book they don't have, they'll track it down and mail it to you.
Computer Literacy Book Shop, 520 Lawrence Expressway, Suite 310, Sunnyvale, CA 94086. Mon-Fri 9:30 am to 8 pm. Weekends 10 am to 6 pm. (408) 730-9955.
You've heard about public domain software, how about public domain hardware? The Future Center at Capitol Children's Museum in the heart of the nation's capitol is a 20-station computer classroom equipped with Atari 800s and a comprehensive library of software. Computer programs are available in BASIC, Logo and Pilot and are available to the general public.
Capitol Children's Museum, 800 Third Street N.E., Washington, DC 20002.