Stranger Things, the Atari 2600, and a Quest for New Ideas

I have a confession to make: I’m a sucker for ‘80s nostalgia. I recently finished watching Netflix’s 8-episode ode to the ‘80s, Stranger Things, which quickly sucked me in with its bad fashion (garish sweaters paired with high-waisted, acid-washed jeans), synth-heavy soundtrack, and old school D&D role playing. It sort of has an ET meets The Goonies meets Stand By Me vibe to it. I dug it.

One of the most entertaining books I’ve read recently is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which is like manna to any child of the ‘80s. I particularly appreciated Cline intentionally going beyond the typical tropes of the time period and giving us more of an ‘80s deep dive. He didn’t just reference the Atari 2600 game console, but also ColecoVision and Intellivision. Not just Pac-Man, but Pitfall and Joust, too. I thought it was brilliant.

(Side note: lest you think I am an Atari 2600 snob, please note that when asked to consider the best Christmas gift I ever received, I continue to cite the Christmas of 1983 when my parents pulled the old Well-I-Guess-We-Have-Given-Out-All-The-Presents-Oh-Hey-What’s-This-Hidden-Behind-The-Sofa-Now-How-Did-That-Get-There trick, when what to my disbelieving eyes should appear but a brand new Atari 2600, complete with included games Combat and Action Pak, paddle controllers, and joysticks. It was an amazing moment and I still give my parents – now in their 70’s – kudos for pulling it off.)

(Second side note: Activision’s Pitfall was the greatest game ever on the Atari 2600 and if you disagree, I will fight you. The worst game? E.T. You can read about it here. Rumor has it that it was so horrible, they buried thousands of cartridges somewhere in New Mexico. It deserved an even worse fate.)

Recently, a friend of mine posted a meme on Facebook that showed a beautiful nature scene with a gurgling brook, radiant wildflowers, trees bursting with fall colors, a butterfly in mid-flight, and two towheaded little boys playing happily. The caption in white Arial font read: “They’ll never remember their best day watching TV.” I heartily disagreed as I absolutely remember my best day watching TV. I don’t remember the specific date – I’m guessing sometime in 1984 – but I do remember what I watched: Inspector Gadget, Charlie’s Angels (rerun), Magnum P.I., and Simon & Simon. This was a momentous occasion because generally I was only allowed to watch one hour of TV a day. Being allowed to watch 3 ½ hours straight blew my mind. Did it help that my mom was away and it was only me and my dad (who I’m pretty sure watched more TV after I went to bed) at home? That’s probably a safe bet.

(Now…where was I going with this…I had a point I was trying to make…hmmm…Scott and I are the modern day Rick and A.J. Simon of CME?…no, that’s not it…I should grow a mustache like Tom Selleck?…well, yes, of course, but I don’t think that was my point…oh, I remember…)

The trouble with nostalgia and reflecting too much on the past is that it keeps us stuck in a rut. We have fond memories of these periods in time, but we don’t really want to still be there. Does anyone miss leg warmers? Is anyone sad that we don’t still play Pong? Scott and I do our best to keep CMEpalooza fresh, but it can be a struggle to keep from doing the same topics, the same types of sessions, and repeating faculty. Don’t get me wrong; I think the agenda for CMEpalooza Fall is one of the best we have ever put together and I’m really excited for it. But every year, it gets a little harder to come up with new ideas.

So, I’m here to ask for your help. If you have an original idea for CMEpalooza, we would love to hear about it. It can be a topic, a new speaker, an idea for improving audience participation, a new format for a session, or a new form of poetry I should use instead of CMEpalooza Haiku (impossible!). Maybe you want to guest write a blog post. We’re interested in hearing about anything – the crazier the better (Scott probably disagrees with that part, but this is my blog post so I get to write what I want.)

No guarantees that we will use your idea, but if we do, we will let you know that we’re interested and ask if and how much you would like to be involved. Our email addresses are below for you to use to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Derek –

Scott –

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