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WELL-MADE CDS SPARK INTEREST\Atlas encourages junior explorers.

Byline: Greg Kane Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire

Here's a look at software that helps children learn about geography and natural history. These programs all come on multimedia CDs, which means they include photographs, video clips, virtual reality animation, recorded speech and music. Bad multimedia is an empty marketing gimmick. Good multimedia turns a Macintosh into a learning machine that captures kids' interest and imagination.

3D Atlas ($65, Electronic Arts, (800) 543-9778) is part atlas, part almanac, part reference book.

Your kids can explore continents and countries with the program's satellite based maps. Better still, they can study economic and political trends with a world almanac that ranks and graphs nations according dozens of details like population density, average annual income and number of doctors (The Comoros has 31). Audio clips and video animations explain topics like the disappearance of the Aral Sea, plate tectonics and Coordinated Universal Time.

Like all good multimedia software, 3D Atlas uses movement, color and sound to improve on even the best printed atlas. Expect the kids to spend hours browsing.

Continent Explorer ($69, Pierian Spring Software, (503) 222-2044) is an example of multimedia at its pointless worst. Ninety percent of the program's production efforts went into handsome virtual reality fluff, 10 percent went into educational content. If what you need from geography software are dull line drawings that plod your youngster through the names of the states, you'll find Continent Explorer satisfactory.

Passage to Vietnam ($40, Against All Odds, (415) 331-6300) is a CD Day In the Life book. Seventy photojournalists spread out across Vietnam for one week, snapping close to a quarter million pictures. This CD holds more than 300 of the best.

Spectacular images are just the beginning. Sound recordings capture the throb of river traffic. Photographers explain the stories behind their pictures. Video clips introduce Vietnamese culture as the visitors discovered it. This beautiful, respectful, intelligent not-for-kids-only tour de force sets the standard for others to follow.

Nile, Passage to Egypt ($45, Discovery Communications, (800) 762-2189) puts your youngster at the helm of a felucca, ready to sail through the natural and human history of the world's longest river. Excellent photos and virtual reality animations complement thematic video games and an encyclopedia.

Like other multimedia CDs, Passage to Egypt would be better if its written information were fleshed out - Alexander the Great rates only two sentences. Still, the CD is a captivating introduction to the west's oldest civilization.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Feb 5, 1996
Words:406
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