Just for kids
by Alan Zisman (c)
1994. First published in Our Computer Player, November 1994
I Can Spell
CD-ROMs for Windows MPC
Despite claims to the contrary, multimedia hasn't had
much of an impact in the business world.
There's just no compelling reasons for most businesses, small or
large, to add the expense of sound cards and speakers to most
business computers. A CD-ROM now and then can probably be
justified for access to large database disks, but sound and video?
Not just yet, thanks.
But a multimedia-capable computer seems to be on the
of more and more home buyers, and the reason's pretty clear-- it'
s for the kids.
And not just the teens or nearly-teens, the
age for most game and education software. Following on the heels
of Broderbund's well-received Living Books series ('Just Grandma
and Me', 'Arthur's Teacher Trouble', and more), we're seeing
more and more CD-ROM products aimed at early-readers, and even
I recently got to play with three titles from the PSR
CDs series... all aimed at people considerably younger than
me... in fact, considerably younger than my own kids, who I
normally use to test child-oriented software. Each runs under
Windows, and requires a sound card and speakers, along with a CD-
They install easily, adding the Video for Windows
player, and an icon to Program Manager, but otherwise taking up
no room on your hard drive (if only all CDs were so respectful
of my setup!)
Of the three, Kids' Rhymes, was my least favorite...
screen seemed like it might confuse a small child. You're
presented with 36 turtles with numbers on their backs. Pick one,
and the title of a nursery rhyme appears.
Select a rhyme, and the text and a picture leap onto
screen. You can have the rhyme read, or chanted with a musical
background. If your child wants to read by herself, but has
problems with an individual line, one click will get that line
read. Finally, your child can print out the screen, to read on
The second disk, Kids' Farm, had a bit more depth. It
a picture of a child's bedroom. Click on anything, and something'
s going to happen-- in some cases, a simple animation-- the fish
in the fishbowl changes into a frog. In other cases, there's
more going on. A click on a flag gets a game to match the name
of a country to its banner.
Click on the teddy bear, and jump to a game matching
picture (click on the picture to hear its sound), with its
written name. Further pages involve re-coloring simple pictures.
Click on the book on the floor, and you get the story
and Hopper. While it's not full of animations, à la the Living
Books series, a child can choose to have the story read
automatically, or explore for herself. Choosing the later still
gets each page read, but allows the child to explore the pages
in more depth. Some words can be defined, while clicking on
areas of the picture gets the name of the object spoken aloud.
My only question about this program is its title... Despite lots
of activities, I failed to find any connection to a farm!
The final disk, I Can Spell, is the most ambitious.
can choose to run the program in a wide range of languages:
Portuguese, Korean, English, Gernam, French, Spanish, Chinese,
or Japanese. In each case, they are told that successfully
spelling five words will reward them with a movie. A word is
spoken aloud, and the child is asked to drag individual letters
into a square to spell the word. Pleasant voices give the child
feedback on each letter dragged.
While requiring Windows, these disks use the
authoring environment to replace Windows' standard menus and
controls with simple, child-usable alternatives. With the
exception of the Kids' Rhymes numbered turtles, all presented a
simple interface that any early reader could quickly learn to
The computer media sometimes create some pretty ugly
new words. '
Edutainment', for a combination of education and entertainment
is one of them. Still, parents of younger children looking for
something of more value than Ninja Turtles, may want to start
their search here.
(Note from the year
2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review.
A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from fans
hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to
a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software
since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone
looking for copies of older software to check at eBay
or at OldSoftware.com.If you
check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)