Microsoft's Dinosaur CD ROM

By Jack B Huynh
Microsoft's Dinosaur CD ROM is part of Microsoft's "Home Series" CD ROM library collection. Riding on the waves of the Multimedia CDs hype and the success of Jurassic Park, I am sure this CD will find a place in homes with children and a CD ROM. Under the assumption that the target audience will be children or dinosaur enthustists (with a fear for computers!), this CD ROM should be very easy to use, fun and intellectually rewarding. Accordingly, I will analyze the CD in terms of usuability, entertainment and educational value.

Upon first starting the program, the user has two options, go directly the program itself or view an introductory movie. Having never used the program before, I proceeded to view the introductory movie. After a minute of viewing the movie, I realized just how much the CD ROM is gear towards children. In the style of saturday morning cartons, the narrative voice gave an overview of the features and functions of the CD ROM. Although slightly annoying, the overview did a fine job in presenting the options available to the user. The graphical user interface of this CDROM is consistent and for the most part pretty initutive. There are eight main buttons that are located on every screen: Contents, Atlas, Timeline, Family, Index, Back, Options and Help. I think it's important that CDROM producers allow the users to have quick access to the main segments of the CD. Obviously, Microsoft knows that and did a fine job in designing and implementing that feature. Moving on, under the 'Content' menu, there are two additional choices of 'a guided tour' and 'dinosaur movies' besides the usual Altas, Family and Timeline choices. The 'guided tour' is a non-interactive script with a narrative voice discussing the 16 different subjects like: Dinosaurs Or Not, Friend or Foe, Dinosuar Mysteries and etc. I only looked at a couple of tours and they were generally educational and sometimes entertaining. The 'dinosuar movies' consists of 6 different movies ranging from "The Hunt" to "Death of the Dinosaurs". Although they are low-resolution cartoon-like movies, they were well done and effective with the accompanying soundbites. The three broad subjects of Altas, Family and Timeline are different aspects of learning about the dinosaurs. Under Atlas, the user learns about dinosaurs according to the region they existed. The other two broad catergories present the information in respect to their titles. Obviously, no matter which aspect you decide to go, the dinosaur information will be the same when you reach the most basic level. In the most basic level, there are consistent choices for all the dinosuars like how to pronnouce it, what they eat, when they died, and etc. There is a lot of reference material on this level that can be used for educational purposes. Overall, Microsoft's Dinosuar CDROM makes good use of the medium and is effectively in presenting the information to its targeted audience. Combining interactive and non-interactive learning tools give the users options, which in turn let them dictate how they want to learn. Although it is primarily a learning tool, there are entertaining elements which effectively use the medium. With a simple and initutively graphical user interface, the CDROM is easy to nagivate and enjoy.