Escalation Demo


History of Escalation

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I developed "Escalation" for my US History course, starting in 1984. The idea came from some curriculum materials on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Students would make choices from several options and then turn to designated pages to find out what happened. I thought that a computer would allow for a more complex simulation and decided to try one on the Vietnam War.

After two years of researching the US role in the war, I typed the text and logic of the simulation. It was originally done in BASIC for Apple IIe computers. In 1988, I began using the simulation in my classes. Each year I'd ask students for suggestions to improve the simulation, and the following summer I'd do more research and make the changes. Some of the information I learned is fascinating. I learned that the leadership in China agreed to send in troops if the US invaded North Vietnam. By studying the war in particular villages, I learned much more about the actual strength of the Vietcong, and what it was like to be a villager caught in this war.

In 1996, I gathered over 300 photographs and 30 movieclips from the National Archives to add to the simulation. A student who worked with me on the project, Nathaniel Duca, suggested moving the simulation to a website, where changes could be made easily. He laid out and programmed the whole simulation, an amazing feat. The simulation in approximately its present form, with well over 1500 screens, was completed in May, 2001.

Hundreds of students at Hamilton-Wenham have played Escalation over the years. In 1984, I could only dream of completing an interactive simulation that included photographs, documentary film clips, maps, full primary source documents, and public opinion polls. As the technology changed, my dream came true. I am thankful.

Kevin O'Reilly