Learning with the Odyssey² – Computer Intro, Nimble Numbers Ned

Remember when video games were thought to be brain rotting, time wasting, scourges of our technologically advanced world? I definitely do. Don’t get me wrong, there are still quite a few detractors of video games out there today that firmly believe they are one of our modern society’s ills. I will be the first to admit that doing too much of anything, be it eating, drinking, exercising, working or playing Call of Duty can be harmful. However, I will not admit that video games, when played in moderation, offer no redeeming value. This concept was a hard sell for many parents and adults in general when video games quickly became one of the prime options to fill children and teenager’s free time in the late 70s and early 80s. How could console manufacturing companies such as Atari, Magnavox, Mattel, Coleco and home computer companies like Apple & Commodore, sell themselves to skeptical adults? The answer was simple. Add an educational title or two to the library of available games and market your machine as both a toy and an educational tool! This strategy even briefly permeated the next generation of home consoles thanks to Nintendo’s half-hearted effort to provide educational games early in the NES’s life (RIP Donkey Kong Jr. Math). Very few consoles straddled this line better than the Odyssey². With it’s built in keyboard that required no additional peripheral purchases and the promise of computer programming carts and educational games from the start, Magnavox really set themselves apart from the competition in terms of multi-functionality.

Computer Intro was an exclusive cart for the Odyssey² that was meant to teach the user the basics of computer programming, understanding and reading computer language. Computer Intro was packed with a massive booklet that provided owners an essential template for writing their own lines of code and what the end result could be. The cart, along with the booklet was a home tutorial that didn’t require attendance at a local community or tech college. During the summer of 1983, between my 2nd and 3rd grade school years, I took part in a program called “College for Kids” that took place at the local 2 year community college. One of the two classes (the other being an acting class) I took part in was a Computer Intro class. The class was essentially an introduction to writing lines of computer code to create the most basic of commands, pictures and moving characters. While this class didn’t utilize an Odyssey² to teach us, whenever I see this cart and booklet in my collection, I think of this class and what computer programming was like for anyone in the early 80s that braved the world of zeros and ones. The Odyssey² deserves a ton of credit for not treating adults as fools trying to trick them into buying a console for educational purposes by throwing lame math and spelling carts that no kid would be caught dead playing. Computer Intro was the real deal.

Nimble Numbers Ned is, as the name suggests, a math based educational game that utilizes the Voice peripheral to talk to the gamer while he or she solves math problems in an effort to navigate crossing a creek. As far as math games go, Nimble Numbers Ned offers a fair amount of variety to keep players interested. Variety with interesting games are typically educational title’s glaring weaknesses and prevent them from getting the necessary replays in order to be effective as learning tools. I can’t speak about Nimble Numbers Ned from the standpoint of it’s target audience (elementary aged kids) but I can imagine how this game would have been intriguing enough to make me want to play even though I was learning. Unfortunately, I still don’t own a Voice module and it’s pretty useful to have one to take advantage of all sub-games within Nimble Numbers Ned.

Currently in my collection:

Computer Intro – game, booklet, box

Nimble Numbers Ned – game, manual, Math Wizardry book, box

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