Feature Text: Bones, Latrines, and CD-ROM's
Written by C. W. Mann
The EMME/MICRO INTEL's CD-ROM plastic case proclaims the title "Introduction to archaeology," but when you view the program icon you find a stale Halloween prank. Once you have run the installation routine you will find the main program on the disk is really called "The Archaeological Detective." A double mouse click brings you to the main menu screen, which offers you five puzzles to unravel.
The interactive training program will take your mind to the skeletal bones of an archaeological dig, and the clues found in an early civilization latrine. The search for knowledge includes textbook-like help, expert hints, "lab work" assignments, field notes, and computerized searches of death records. You will be expected to determine the date of birth of bones you have found, their sex, such personal habits such as smoking, and even their name.
The product is a dual computer product. Macintosh users need System 7.0 or larger, and 6 MB of RAM. The color monitor, and graphics card should be able to display 640 X 480 pixels. At this level of detail the product displays 256 colors. The packaging does not suggest a speed or access time criteria for the CD-ROM, but a 4-X drive or better significantly improves the product's operation.
The PC requirements are for an 80486 or better processor, and 8 MB of RAM. The color card, and monitor should be an SVGA type with 640 X 480 pixels or better. The product will display 256 colors or more, and it can determine when to go to higher resolutions. Although the product calls for a Double-speed CD-ROM drive, it has not been optimized to run well on this speed drive. The system will use a 16-bit sound card if one exists, or play voice messages through the computer's built-in speaker. The system runs under either Windows 3.1 or Windows 95.
Users will learn only the barest basics of archaeological knowledge from the CD-ROM. The most complicated concept explained seems to be that objects found deeper in the ground represent older civilizations. The program also asks the user to guess the answer to a question, only to find out later that there was no answer to the question. The user interface from screen to screen is inconsistent, therefore, making it of little value to children.
The product has many other flaws that appear to render it useless to its intended audience. The installation elements are so poorly documented and constructed, that only the advanced computer user is likely to find a way to get the program into operation. The Macintosh version requires the user to have advanced knowledge of the technical aspects of System 7.0, and QuickTime 2.0. Users who are used to simply double clicking an icon to install or run the application will be baffled.
The PC user will find the installation documentation has been written for the British English version of Windows 3.1. The USA versions of both Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 do not have the commands for which the documentation calls. Only users capable of searching the CD-ROM's subdirectories would be able to find the installation program.
The program seems to have a young adult audience, but the consistent use of British spellings like "colour," and "initialisation" make it a poor parental choice for our U.S. audience. The program's sound, video clips, and drawings were not properly located on adjacent tracks for their use within the program's time line. The speech portions of the exposition are often clipped at the ends by the loading of a video clip or slide element. In short, the program is hard to install, runs slowly, and has educational flaws so serious as to make it worthless.
Contributed by C. W. Mann, who also writes the syndicated computer column, BuzzBytes.
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