The Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota is an archive and research center dedicated to preserving the history of information technology. Instead of physical hardware and software, the CBI preserves the culture and stories of the IT industry, as told by both those who created it and those whom it impacted. Its extensive collection on Social Issues in Computing exemplifies the many challenges that have arisen as the result of the evolution and proliferation of technology, including gaming.
In this episode, I chat with CBI’s current and former archivists, Amanda Wick and Arvid Nelsen. The archive has a growing collection of video game materials, leading me to ask: does the larger technology industry have the same issues of diversity and representation as gaming? Is gaming uniquely a bellwether, or an exemplar, for social issues? Is technology inherently neutral or even positive, as the industry often purports? In what ways are marginalized voices excluded from the authorship of IT’s history? And what does the archive have to say about the classic survival game Oregon Trail, created right in CBI’s home state of Minnesota?
Stream the audio edition of this interview below or from Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Overcast, Pandora, Pocket Casts, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, RadioPublic, or the Internet Archive. Click past the jump for links to resources mentioned in this episode.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- The Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota
- Juiced.GS visits the CBI
- CBI’s Oral Histories collection
- Oral history interviews by Kay Savetz of ANTIC, the Atari 8-Bit podcast
- Computing Educators Oral History Project
- Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC)
- Digital State: The Story of Minnesota’s Computing Industry by Thomas J. Misa
- The Oregon Trail (MS-DOS) on the Internet Archive
- Jason Scott tweets about The Oregon Trail’s popularity
- Odell Lake (Apple II) on the Internet Archive
- CBI’s Social Issues in Computing Collection
- “Race and Computing: The Problem of Sources, the Potential of Prosopography, and the Lesson of Ebony Magazine” by Arvid Nelsen, published in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing and excerpted by the IEEE Computer Society
- Hidden Figures
- Born with Curiosity: The Story of Grace Murray Hopper
- Warren Robinett’s first Easter egg in Adventure for the Atari 2600
- Bill Budge, Electronic Arts’ first rock-star programmer
- Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy