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Los campamentos Atari: formando geeks desde los años ochenta

3 diciembre 2012 - 20:55 - Autor:

Hoy en día, hasta el menos espabilado tiene “informática nivel usuario” en el currículum. Pero había una época en la que los ordenadores sólo los usaban unos cuantos cerebritos, cuando nos decían que “los ordenadores eran el futuro” y que había que estar preparado.

Así nacían cosas como los “campamentos de ordenadores”. A finales de los 70 y principios de los 80, la oferta para que un chaval pasara el verano aprendiendo a programar era abundante. Y entre todos destacaban los “Campamentos Atari“, organizados por la compañía que estaba en lo más alto del mundillo del videojuego.

La idea: que el chaval saliera de ahí hecho un geniecillo del código, cual Mathew Broderick en ‘Juegos de Guerra’.

El programa no difiere mucho del de cualquier academia de informática de la época, si bien la cantidad de horas lectivas eran mucho más elevadas. Se comenzaba con BASIC, para pasar a BASIC avanzado; y a partir de ahí uno podía escoger entre varios lenguajes más complejos. Entre ellos, el PILOT, un lenguaje aún más simple que nunca fue especialmente popular, pero que podía ayudar a los jóvenes a entender como funcionaban los ordenadores. Una elección extraña que les ganó algunas críticas.

Con todo, los críos que se quedaban durante los dos meses del campamento y que tuvieran conocimientos de años anteriores, terminaban aprendiendo ensamblador y código máquina. Algunos de los chavales mayores (16 años como tope) podían tener un nivel parecido al de profesionales (según algunos de los profesores, claro), y se les orientaba hacia este sector haciéndoles cumplir con plazos de entrega y programas por encargo.

El campamento tenía a su disposición unos 36 equipos, flamantes Atari 400 y 800 de 8 y 48k de memoria, con sus correspondientes monitores, por un precio que venían a costar cerca de un millón de dólares, según la publicidad de la época. Además de monitores y profesores, tenían hasta invitados, programadores de éxito que les daban sus consejos y hablaban de sus últimos juegos.

Por supuesto, en aquella época a nadie le gustaba que le tildaran de “nerd” (no como ahora), con lo cual las prácticas informáticas se completaban con ejercicio y otras actividades destinadas a que el chaval socializara. El horario de un día de “vacaciones Atari” podría ser algo así:

9:00-10:25 a.m. Clases de informática

10:30-11:10 Clase de teatro

11:15-12:00 Tenis

12:00- 1:55 Comida y descanso

2:00- 2:55  Taller de programación

3:00- 3:35  Natación

4:00- 5:25  Softball

Lógicamente, se cambiaba el horario cada semana para no caer en la monotonía, otras actividades eran música, aerobic, fútbol, voleibol… Lo único que permanecía inmutable eran las sesiones frente al teclado, que se podían extender más allá de lo indicado en el horario.

Y es que las salas de ordenadores estaban disponibles durante todo el día para aquel que quisiera repasar o jugar a videojuegos. Es más: por lo que dicen testimonios de gente que acudió, las actividades favoritas de estos campamentos eran videojuegos hasta la hora de dormir. Eso o jugar a ‘Dragones y Mazmorras‘, muy popular por aquella época.

Si uno era medianamente hábil, a finales del curso podría haber perdido el miedo a los ordenadores, aprendido algo de BASIC e incluso programar algunos juegos sencillos, como este crucigrama con grupos de rock de los 80: Van Halen, Asia y Styx hacían a los chavales más asequible el trabajo con los cerebros electrónicos.

Eso sí: el porcentaje de chicas, a pesar de los esfuerzos de Atari, era muy bajo: apenas un 20%. Aunque ellas podían elegir libremente sus actividades, estas solían incluir un taller de costura en la que crear banderas y tapices con el logo de la compañía. Eso sí: ellas mismas podían crear los patrones usando un programa especial, que para algo era un “computer camp”.

El precio: unos 890 euros al cambio por dos semanitas y 425 $ extras cada dos semanas, con descuentos para aquellos que se quedaran los dos meses. Bastante más caro que el campamento medio de la época. Y no sabemos si más divertido, pero no se llegó a rodar ninguna película de juergas adolescentes en uno de estos recintos vacacionales. Por algo será.

En realidad, Atari no fue, ni de lejos, la única compañía en organizar estos campamentos. Apple e IBM también optaron por montar los suyos propios. Pero quizá fueron los que más éxito tuvieron, ya que su nombre aún se asociaba a videojuegos y a una visión más amable y lúdica de la informática. Así, llegaron a ampliar la operación a nivel internacional, organizando varios en Reino Unido y Alemania.

De hecho, en 1982 Atari llegó a preparar… ¡un campamento para adultos! Vendido como una lujosas vacaciones en las que aprenderíamos a utilizar esos dichosos ordenadores, consistían en lujosos resorts en Cancún, Las Bahama y Córcega (Francia). Por 200 dólares al día podríamos relajarnos en un paradisíaco entorno… y recibir nociones de informática de la mano de atractivas muchachas.

Todo sea por modernizarse ante la llegada de HAL 9000 y compañía. Internet quedaba aún muy lejos.

 

Fuentes: Venus Patrol, 2warpstoneptuneAtari Archives y Computer Speigel

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