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Editor's Note: Fun Brain Games and Geek Toys

Oct 17, 2009, 00:04 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

My favorite card game is Krypto. Eons ago when I was a youngun, you could buy this game from Edmund Scientifics, and can still find it on Amazon and other online nooks and crannies. The game is simple: there is a deck of 56 cards numbered 1-25. Each player is dealt five cards, and there is one common objective card in the middle. Players have three minutes to use each of their cards once to form the number on the objective card.

It's a great brain-sharpener and a lot of fun. You can use simple arithmetic or more advanced maths. It's not necessary to hunt down an official deck because you can cobble one together from standard card decks, though having a "real" one is nicer.

Another game we used to play a lot was Mastermind, a code-breaking game for two players, one code-maker and one code-breaker. Again the basics are simple, but require some thinking.

Another youthful passion that I still indulge in when I can is astronomy. It helps to live out at the hind end of nowhere, with nice dark skies and no light pollution. But even in a city there is a lot to see in the night sky, and the Astroscan telescope is the perfect kid's, beginner's, and all-around fun telescope. It's inexpensive, it's easy to handle, and it's sharp and bright. I still regret selling the one I had lo so many years ago; it was a lot of fun. Linux has a lot of great astronomy programs, which is another reason to want a netbook with 6-8 hours battery life.

Edmund Scientifics has a lot of gadgets that to me are way cooler than a Nintendo or iPod or whatever the gadget du jour is, like:

My dad worked for various computer companies way back when, long before the PC revolution and the Microsoft pandemic, and brought home machines to play with. I remember a lighted scrolling message sign that businesses put in their windows. It looked pretty much the same as the ones you see now, but programming a new message into it was rather arcane and involved toggle flipping, or button pressing, or something like that. Anyway it wasn't typing on a keyboard or clicking a mouse, which didn't even exist yet. I don't recall all kinds of whining about "What, no GUI?? Begone, fiend!" Dad showed his customers how to program it and that was it. No drama. (No I'm not saying that was the better way-- I'm saying that sitting down and learning gets the job done.) For us kids it was a great toy, and I recall creating messages with words like "poop" and "weiner", which for us were quite daring.

Another youthful passion that remains unfulfilled is model trains. We had some small layouts when we were kids, and that leads into learning all kinds of disciplines: electricity, chemistry, model-building, math, planning and provisioning...it can get very involved. I suppose these days they have microchips and firmwares just like everything else.

Some of the most significant advances have been in digital photography and audio/video production. Brace yourselves, for here come more recollections from Ye Olden Days-- it's a whole lot easier and better now. The dynamic range and resolution of both audio and video go beyond what the analog world can do, and it's a lot cheaper and easier to perform sophisticated A/V production. I've done multi-track tape recording and editing, and I've done the photography darkroom full of chemicals, special papers, and expensive equipment. I like the newfangled ways a lot better.

Well that's enough about what I think is a fun time. What are your favorite games and toys?