Girl Scout Badge Nostalgia: Computer Fun (1990)

The main reason I collect Girl Scout handbooks isn’t their value (which is often negligible). It’s the nostalgia factor.

It’s also the fact that, while some of the content is timeless, other parts of the books aged faster than girls do.

Today’s example: “Computer Fun,” one of the badges included in Girl Scout Badges and Signs (1990).
Girl Scout Badge Nostalgia

Back in Ye Early 1990s, when this badge appeared in Girl Scout Badges and Signs and also back when I earned it, badges were organized into five “Worlds,” indicated by color: The World of Well-Being (Red), the World of People (Blue), the World of Today and Tomorrow (Orange), the World of the Arts (Purple), and the World of the Out-of-Doors (Yellow).

The World to which a badge belonged was indicated by the color of its border: Computer Fun, being from the World of Today and Tomorrow (which focused mostly on the sciences), had an orange border.

Badges were also graded by difficulty for Juniors and Cadettes: badges with a green background were comparatively easier to earn, and were for Juniors only. Badges with a tan background were comparatively harder to earn, and could be earned by either Juniors or Cadettes. Computer Fun was one of the “hard” ones.

Ironically, I suspect it’d still be one of the hard ones today, but not for the reasons it was hard in 1994.

Here’s the first page of badge requirements:

Page 101 of Girl Scout Badges and Signs, 1990. The first of two pages detailing requirements for the

The instructions, “Complete Six Activities,” were pretty standard for badges. Occasionally there were one or two mandatory activities, but generally speaking, we got to pick from 6-10 options.

This page contains Activity 1:

  1. Find computers being used for at least ten different purposes. To do this, look through books, newspapers, or magazines, watch television, or go in person. Share what you have found with your troop members.

Today, I suspect most girls could pull this one off without leaving their own room. In Ye Fabled Land of 1990, however, this one actually did take some research. A few lucky folks actually had computers in their own house. For most kids, though, computers were a newfangled thing we were all told not to bother with, for they would surely blow over.

Ahem.

Anyway, here are the rest of the requirements:

filename-1(2)-page-001

(This page is from my former troop leader’s copy of Girl Scout Badges and Signs, which is why it has her signature and our names in it. On most of the others, she marked which activities we’d done, so I’m uncertain why they’re not marked here.)

Activity 2:

2. Spend at least two hours learning something new from a computer, either by taking computer-assisted instruction at a school or learning center or by using a computer educational toy.

Today, I’m pretty sure every kindergartener who signs up for Daisies has completed this one. In my day, though, there was an excellent chance that most or all of the girls in one’s troop hadn’t used a computer for two hours in their entire lives.

3. Help put on a demonstration of computer toys and games for your troop.

Time Traveling Troop Leader: “Okay, everybody get out your phones.”

Us, in 1990: “What?”

…In 1990, my home phone was still rotary dial. Touch tone service didn’t reach our part of the U.S. till I was in high school. Portable phones were attached to a battery the size of a small briefcase, so no one used them unless they had to.

4. Visit a business, bank, or other place that uses a computer to solve problems.

  • See the computer in action and find out some of the things for which it is used.
  • Find out what language the computer users, how information is put into the computer, and how information comes out.
  • Learn how to use an automatic banking machine.

When I was a kid, ATMs were magic. I’m not kidding. I spent a large part of my childhood thinking there was a person on the other side of the wall who just sat there and handled transactions all day. When free-standing ATMs became a thing, I was very confused.

That said, I’d like to send some of my high school students to do the first two. We’ve reached the flip side of the coin: Computers were brand new for my generation, but today, they’re so ubiquitous that students often don’t realize what software platforms do or how they’re coded.

5. Invite someone who works with computers to talk to your troop or group. Find out what she/he does with the computer, what training was necessary, and what other people are involved in keeping the computer working properly. or Interview four different people and find out how computers affect their lives.

Ah yes, the old “talk to other humans” activity. Some version of this activity appears in every single badge. And I hated then all.

6. Visit a computer store. Compare different kinds of personal computers. Ask someone to explain the basic options available to the average buyer. Decide which one you would buy.

Honestly? I’d have kids do this today. Knowing how to read computer specs has saved me from making laughably bad purchases on a dozen different occasions.

7. Read a computer magazine. Make a list of the types of information that can be found in the magazine and how this would help you use computers.

Magazines stopped being the best source of this information 15 years ago. Unfortunately, now it’s even harder to find, since The Rise of the End-User has somehow meant that we’re all supposed to just know this stuff even though that’s literally the opposite of what “end-user” means.

8. Learn how to do some basic computer operations. Demonstrate your ability to do the following:

  • Format a disc.
  • Insert a software program.
  • Create a file.
  • Print stored information.
  • Save something you have created.

“Disc.”

Is there even an equivalent to formatting floppies today? I think “backing up our files to the cloud” might be the closest most of us get on a daily basis. For the kiddos in the audience: Yes, we used to format floppy disks all the time. It was the only way to reuse them, and because they only held 1.44 MB (you read that right), we needed a lot of them.

Anyway, my dad had an Apple IIGS, so I learned to do all of this much sooner than many of my peers. When Windows 3.1 came along and all my friends were going “WHOA NO WAI LOOK AT THIS,” I was going, “that’s literally just AppleWorks only less ugly.”

Then Clippy appeared. $#*(#& Clippy.

9. Play an electronic computer game at least five different times. Keep a record of how you do. What skills are needed? How can you improve?

or

Be a computer games reviewer. Play at least three different video games and write a brief review of your opinions of each. Include in your review: comments on the objective of the game, the skills required, the eye appeal and the quality of the graphics, the interest level, and the educational value.

…Let me show you what computer games looked like at the time this book was published.

prince-of-persia

Prince of Persia, 1989. I had a similar game for the Apple IIGs, Dark Castle, whose graphics absolutely blew my mind at the time.

indesdx

EGATrek, 1992. This is your readout as captain of the Federation starship USS Lexington. Oh yeah, I’m feeling very 24th century right about now.

indexaaa

And the crowning achievement of early 1990s computer games, Castle Wolfenstein 3D. This game literally changed how we thought about video games: it was the first one to let us move in three dimensions…more or less.

Stare good and hard at Wolfenstein for a while. I’m serious. Imagine a world where these graphics are incredible. They are blowing your mind. You have never seen anything so photorealistic on a computer screen. Ever.

Yes, I just typed “photorealistic” with a straight face.

Castle Wolfenstein 3D really did blow our minds when it came out. Even EGATrek was enough fun that I’ve gone searching for emulators from time to time over the years. But the technology keeps moving further than we realize: in 1994, the year my fellow troop members and I completed “Computer Fun,” these were amazing graphics.

Today, they’re “retro.” Kitschy, even. There are five year olds doing better work on Scratch.

I have no idea what the updated computer badges look like for Girl Scouts today. I imagine they cover an updated set of the same basic skills.

I do think girls would be hard-pressed today to complete the 1990 version. For one thing, where would they find floppy disks?

Advertisements

How Much Is My Girl Scout Handbook Worth? Part Two: The Market

Part One of this post ran in 2011, and it’s always been in the top five most popular posts on this blog. Based on the search terms folks use to find it, it appears that the sequel is both desired and long overdue. So here it is.

Part One covered the basics of appraising the condition of your handbook(s). I highly recommend reading it before moving on to Part Two, since it explains why not every book actually has value as a collectible (and how to tell if your book does or not).

Assuming you’ve already determined that your handbooks are in Very Fine or Fine condition, however, here’s what you need to know about the state of the market.

Which Girl Scout books are worth the most?

2011-12-28_18-57-40_511
1947. From my personal collection. Background courtesy of our linen closet.

As of late 2018, here’s a rough approximation of which Girl Scout items fetch the highest prices in the rare and used book world and what their price ranges look like:

1. Well-preserved personal ephemera.

Items like scrapbooks and photo albums are by far the most valuable, especially if they are well-preserved and provide details about the people, places, and dates shown in the photos/clippings within them. Prices for these items currently run in the $500 to $2,500 range, with higher values typically being set on photographs taken prior to World War II.

As far as price goes, I strongly suspect that Mariner Scout documents also fall in this category. I say “suspect” because I have yet to actually find any for sale.

2. Ephemera from the National office.

Cookie campaign advertisements, brochures from events held by the National office, and similar non-book items fetch higher prices than nearly any book. Currently, most of these fall in the $200 to $500 range (and yes, that means sellers are asking $500 for a single piece of paper in some cases!).

3. Certain books.

Currently, only a handful of Girl Scout-related books exist that are consistently listed at $100.00 or above – and only one handbook makes that list.

That handbook is How Girls Can Help Their Country, the first Girl Scout handbook ever written, published in several editions from 1912 to about 1917. Most editions I’ve seen on the market are priced at about $150.

How Girls Can Help Their Country was very cheaply produced. At least one edition is bound together with actual staples. Like most cheap books published in the 1910s, it was printed on acid-containing paper. Very few of these still exist, and those that do are disintegrating rapidly. My rule of thumb is to buy any copy I find for under $100 (so far, that’s been one).

If you want to read How Girls Can Help Their Country without investing in one of the delicate few remaining copies, Applewood Books issued a reprint a few years ago.

The other “Girl Scout books” that consistently sell for around $150 apiece are Very Fine copies of Edith Lavell’s and Lilian Garis’s respective adventure series, published in the 1920s and 1930s. If you have one or more with pristine dust jackets, congratulations.

4. Ephemera at the council level.

Songbooks, training manuals, and other items published at the council level typically run anywhere from $0 to $150, depending on the item and the demand for it. Training manuals from National tend to fall into this category as well, rather than category #2 above.

5.  Everything else.

Some old handbooks are more in demand than others, and surprise: they don’t follow any predictable pattern. For instance, handbooks published in the 1940s and 1950s tend to be cheapest to acquire – probably because a lot of them were published and they were the only ones published in hardcover, making them more durable.

The handbooks published in 1994 and in 2001 are selling, on average, for more than the 1940s/1950s handbooks. Copies in their original packaging can easily fall in the $100-$150 range. But before you get too excited: Copies in anything but new-in-the-package condition are selling for about $10 or less, which is probably less than you paid for it in the 90s.

Where can I find up to date prices for comparison?

The best way to figure out how much your Girl Scout handbook, novel, or ephemera might sell for is to look up similar books through used and rare book dealers.

Luckily, there’s an easy one-stop way to do this: AddALL (link opens in new window). AddALL searches several used and rare book databases, and it can give you a look at what’s out there and what people are asking for it.

That said, remember: Used and rare books are ultimately worth only what someone is willing to pay for them. Until you have cash in hand, all you have is a book.

Girl Scout Handbooks: A(nother) Note on Appraisal

1947. From my personal collection. Background courtesy of our linen closet.

I’ve had a steady trickle of commenters asking if I can give them a price estimate for their vintage Girl Scout handbooks for several months now, and I suspect that number is about to skyrocket, seeing as the blog and I are to be featured in the March 2012 issue of TREASURES magazine.

I’ll be getting back to you individually soon, if I can, but right now here is the deal: I cannot, unfortunately, give you an accurate appraisal without seeing your particular handbook.  I am, however, willing to have a look at and particularly-appraise your particular handbook, for a modest fee; drop me a line via the blog or via Twitter (@danialexis).

For those of you who don’t want to go that far, I will be continuing my series on appraising Girl Scout handbooks soon!  Part One is herePart Two will look at the more commonly-available books and what they’re currently selling for, so you can take a shot at estimating the value of yours on your own.  Part Three will cover the less-commonly-available books, and Part Four will focus on the peripheral publications, like novels, songbooks, the Mariner Scout and Wing Scout manuals, and the Studio2B materials.  I’ll update this post with links as they become available.

Also upcoming, in the Girl Scout-related realm:

As my grandad used to say, don’t touch that dial!

How Much Is My Girl Scout Handbook Worth? Part One: The Basics

The books and reading badge for Junior Girl Scouts, used from the 1970s through the late 1990s.

2012 includes the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA(GSUSA), an organization that has been publishing handbooks for its members since literally before the first-ever Scout meeting in Savannah, Georgia in 1912.  So there are plenty of old Girl Scout handbooks floating around antique and secondhand stores.  Maybe you even have one gathering dust in your basement!  But what is it worth?   Continue reading “How Much Is My Girl Scout Handbook Worth? Part One: The Basics”

Collecting Girl Scout Handbooks, Part II: 1950-1977

(Part I is here.)

Last time in “Collecting Girl Scout Handbooks,” I covered the books published from the origins of Girl Scouting in the U.S. until 1947 – a period of only 35 years.  This post will cover the years from 1950 to 1977.  It’s fewer years, but it’s a lot more books.

Onward! Continue reading “Collecting Girl Scout Handbooks, Part II: 1950-1977”

Collecting Girl Scout Handbooks, Part I: 1912 to 1947

If there are other serious or semi-serious collectors of Girl Scout books in the world, they are remaining modestly off the Internet. A Google search for “collecting Girl Scout handbooks” today turned up this fellow collector on Squidoo, an individual on Alibris who may or may not have the only third edition of the original handbook left in the world, and a few already-sold copies of older handbooks on Etsy, along with the usual eBay listings for anything labeled “Girl Scout.”

So, in the interests of turning my personal obsession into a public service like the Girl Scouts trained me to do (just “do[ing] a good turn daily,” ma’am), here is Part I of my series on Girl Scout handbooks, past and present. More serious collectors will want to refer to Mary Degenhardt and Judith Kirsch’s Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, ISBN 0896725464 (Texas Tech UP, 2005). Continue reading “Collecting Girl Scout Handbooks, Part I: 1912 to 1947”