Getting educated at CES; educational software crowds the show floor. Betsy Staples.
The Consumer Electronics Show has always been the province of game software. It was the game software manufacturers--Atari, Activision, Mattel--who first discovered the show and used it as a marketing vehicle. And as recently as last year's CES, they had the floor to themselves.
This year, however, there was another category of software every bit as ubiquitous as games: educational programs. The big names--Spinnaker, Electronic Arts, Scarborough, Scholastic, et al.--were all showing their educational wares in the West Hall from booths splashy and sophisticated enough to rival those of the large hardware manufacturers in the main convention center. Other newer and/or smaller companies had smaller, less pretentions booths, but at first glance the quality of the software on display seemed uniformly high. Perhaps the manufacturers have gotten the message that parents and teachers will no longer tolerate swillware.
Of course, we did not have time to do a full scale, in-depth evaluation of any of the products we saw on the floor, so a mention in this report does not qualify as an endorsement, but the following summary should give you a good feel for the latest in educational software. We shall choose the best of the lot and publish full reviews in future issues of Creative.
For now, let's have a quick look at the packages that were introduced at the show. For more information on the ones that interest you, circle the appropriate number on the Reader Service car.
Spinnaker Software introduced six educational packages. Three of the new programs are from the Early Learnings Series for children between the ages of 3 and 12. the first of tehse is KidWriter, a storytelling tool that allows children to create their own stories using both pictures and words. The program offers a menu of 99 characters that can be placed on a variety of background screens. It is available on disk for Apple and Commodore 64 for $34.95.
Designed for children ages 3 to 6, Alf in the Color Caves challenges the player to guide Alf through "zig-zaggy shapes" while attemping to evade the nasty "Wufflegumps" on his way through the color cave. The game is available on cartridge for the Commodore 64 for $39.95.
Bubble Burst features Soapie, a Sea Serpent who wants to finish her bath before a flock of Zeboingers, little birds with sharp beaks, burst all her bubbles. Intended for children ages 4 to 8, Bubble Burst is available on cartridge for the Commodore 64 for $39.95.
Trains is an animated economics simulation which introduces players to the principles of running a business. Bills must be paid, priorities set, and deadlines met to stay in business and expand the railroad empire. The program is available on disk for Atari and Commodore 64 for $39.95.
The remaining two introductions are Jukebox from the Family Learning Series and Aerobics from the Better Living Series.
Sierra On-Line added three programs to their line of educational software with Wizard of Id's Touch Type, Story Maker, and Learning with Fuzzywomp.
In Wizard of Id's Touch Type, the Wizard of id fights of a dragon who throws words on the wall. Features of the game include sentence and paragraph typing, adjustable speed, and several different types of practice drills. It is available on disk for the Commodore 64 and on cartridge for the Pcjr for $39.95.
Story Maker is a creative story construction kit which allows children to create their own stories, titles, characters, sentences, and illustrations. It is available for Commodore 64 and Apple for $39.95.
Learning with Fuzzywomp includes four games for pre-readers which teach such basic skills as pattern matching, counting, number sequencing, and creative play. No adult supervision is required to play this game, which is available for the Apple and sells for $29.95.
Two new educational packages were introduced by Scarborough Systems. Using PatternMaker, children and adults can construct, manipulate, and animate symmetrical patterns in color. The patterns created can be saved and printed, and the company suggests applications for artists, architects, and weavers.
Run for the Money by Tom Snyder is an educational business game which allows the player to have fun while learning how to operate a profitable business. The game encourages the development of business skills and replaces luck with strategy as the key to success. It is available for IBM PC ($49.95), Atari, and Apple ($39.95).
New to the Electronic Arts line are D-Bug, a computer literacy product designed to teach deduction and problem-solving techniques, and Word Flyer, a game designed to enhance reading, spelling, and vocabulary skills in five- to eight-year-olds. Both programs were developed by ChildWare.
Weekly Reader Family Software was showing the newest additions to their software family, Stickybear Shapes, Stickybear Opposites, and Stickybear Basketbounce, all reviewed elsewhere in this issue. CBS Here To Stay
In an enormous booth in the main hall of the Convention Center CBS Software made it clear that they are in the educational software business to stay. They announced several agreements with independent software developers and debuted nine new educational programs. Coco-Notes, Halftime Battling Bands, and Movie Musical Madness are three music activity programs designed for ages 6 and up. All are available for Atari and Commodore 64 for prices ranging from $24.95 to $34.95.
From Joyce Hakansson Associates for CBS come Ducks Ahoy, which develops prediction and strategy development skills, and Seashore Hide 'n' Seek, which teaches shapes and color discrimination. Both programs are designed for pre-school children and are available for Atari and Commodore 64. Prices range from $24.95 to $34.95.
Programs developed by Neosoft, Inc. make use of a colorful, game-specific keyboard overlay for Apple, Commodore 64,a nd IBM computers designed to serve as the program menu and interface. Coast-to-Coast America and Dinosaur Dig feature colorful, animated graphics which test mastery of facts by children aged 6 and up. The programs sell for $49.95 each with keyboard overlay.
Also announced was an agreement with Children's Television Workshop to convert selected Sesame Street programs, currently available only for the Radio Shack Color Computer, to other formats. Big Bird's Special Delivery, which addresses classification of objects and symbol recognition, and Ernie's Magic Shapes, which covers visual discrimination using shapes and color matching, are available for Atari Commodore 64, and IBM PCjr. Prices range from $27.95 to $39.95. Other programs featuring the Sesame Street characters will be available later in the year.
A series of programs for Apple, IBM, Commodore 64, and Atari computers based on the television show Mister Roger's Neighborhood will also be available later in the year.
Traveling back to the West Hall, we found that Hesware, too, had added a collection of licensed titles to its line. Through an agreement with Sunburst Education, Human Engineered Software will market The Factory and M-ss-ng L-nks for Commodore 64 and Atari computers, The Pond for Atari, and Tri-Math for Commodore 64.
The Factory places the player in the role of a creative design engineer with the job of creating geometric products on an assembly line. M-ss-ng L-nks is a language puzzle that offers to help children 10 years and older improve their writing, spelling, grammar, and comprehension skills. To help children ages 6 to 12 improve their basic math skills, Tri-Math uses an alien space invader, a dinosaur, and a mysterious mansion as a backdrop for practice in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The Pond challenges children age 7 and up to learn pattern recognition.
Turtle Toyland Jr., a program developed by ChildWare Corporation, challenges children age 6 and up to learn about computers and computer concepts. It is available for the Commodore 64, IBM PC, and Coleco computers.
FlipTrack Learning Systems also announced products designed to help the novice learn to use home computers. The company's Learning Express series of audio cassettes provides in-depth instruction for new users of Atari 600XL/800XL, IBM PCjr, Adam and Timex-Sinclair 2068 computers. The new tapes complement the previously introduced courses on How To Operate The Commodore 64, Vic 20, and TI 99/4A computers.
All Learning Express titles consist of one or two instructional audio cassettes and a Quick Reference Guide that summarizes the key ideas and procedures in each lesson. They are priced from $16.95 to $29.95. Game Manufacturers Join The Education Market
Epyx has added Fun With Words and 9 to 5 Typing to its Learning Fun line of educational software. Fun with Words features three different games, each with numerous skill levels and game variations to provide the appropriate degree of difficulty for each player. Players of 9 to 5 Typing learn to type in play sequences from the movie "9 to 5."
Another previously game-oriented manufacturer, MicroLab, was showing educational software. On display at their booth were the new SAT preparation packages from the company's MicroLearn division.
No programs were on display, however, at the MicroLab hospitality suite, which wins this year's prize for Best Party. Held at Caesar's Palace in a lavish suite complete with mirrors on the ceiling, the Sunday night party was simply delightful. The food was good, the host were charming, and the atmosphere was relaxing--a combination I can't recall ever having found before at a CES party.
The Avalon Hill Game Company, long famous for war games, announced the formation of an educational division to be known as Intelligence Quest Software. The first new programs in the series are Divex and ABC Caterpillar. Divex challenges the child's grasp of multiplication and division as he defends his land from incorrect answers in the form of rocket ships. Intended for children ages 8 to 12, the game is available on disk for Atari ($21) and casette for Atari and Commodore 64 ($16).
In ABC Caterpillar the three- to eight-year-old child drills alphabetical order by finding and gobbling up the letters in sequence. It is currently available for Vic 20 and sells for $16.
Branching out from its previously all Timex-Sinclair line of software, Softsync introduced Dancing Feats for Commodore 64 and Atari computers. The program allows users to play music and "create radiant bursts of color" on the computer screen. Using a series of menus, the user can choose the bass, beat, style, tempo, and ending he desires. He then chooses a melody with the joystick. More Programs By Tom Snyder
Scholastic announced three new Wizware programs by Tom Snyder. Structured around the train stations of more than 100 U.S. cities, Agent USA is a strategy game that helps children learn geography as they become involved in a cross-country train chase to cature an evil character. Spelldiver is a program that uss the fantasy environment of an ocean floor to help children learn to visualize letters and words. The child assumes the role of a deep sea diver exploring underwater mystery words. Bannercatch is a five-level game of strategy and skill designed to help children learn to collaborate as they play against a team of clever robots. The opponent robots communicate with one another using a decodable binary language. All three programs are available for Apple, Atari, Commodore 64, and IBM PCjr.
Story Tree for the Apple is designed to teach creative writing to children age 9 and up. The program is called a "story processor" through which children can write, edit, or change story lines. They can also use the program to create multiple story paths for the reader to follow, resulting in different endings to the story.
New from Reader's Digest Software are Little People's Puzzles for the Apple and Commodore 64. Featuring Nursery Rhyme and Things That Go themes, the two packages are basically computerized picture puzzles that offer four levels of difficulty. Both programs allow parents to create new puzzle pictures for children to assemble. Puzzle Mania is the adult version of the game.
Micro Habitats, also for the Apple and Commodore 64, allows children ages 6 to 12 to create and animate scenes by placing animals and plants on varied backgrounds. Cogito is a strategy game for two players using an Apple. During the course of play, challengers roam across an ever-changing game grid, accumulating money and land. All of the new Reader's Digest introductions sell for $39.95.
DLM Teaching Resources introduced three new early childhood programs for Apple. Alphabet Circus includes six different activities designed to help children with alphabetical order, letter recognition, keyboard skills, text creation, and problem solving. Number Farm, which also includes six activities, stresses the concept of number, recognition of numerals and number words, numerical order, keyboard skills, and problem solving. In Shape and Color Rodeo, children learn shape and color recognition and color mixing while they sharpen their visual perception, eye-hand coordination, and keyboard skills. The programs sell for $29.95 each.
Programs from DLM intended for classroom use include Hint and Hunt I and II, which are built on the principle of fast, automatic word recognition, and Construct-a-Word I and II, which are designed to help children read words quickly and accurately by upgrading their knowledge of consonants, consonant clusters, and phonograms. Each program includes 10 disks, 24 blackline masters for desk practice, and a 32-page teacher's manual; requires the Supertalker speech synthesizer; and sells for $185.
The Learning Company introduced two new reading programs, two number programs, and its first art program.
Reader Rabbit and The Fabulous Word Factory teaches pre-reading and early reading skills to children aged 5 to 7. By helping Reader Rabbit match pictures and words, label boxes, and load words into a word train, children learn to recognize and spell more than 200 three-letter words. The program sells for $39.95 on Apple disk.
Word Spinner allows six- to ten-year-olds to build more than 500 three-letter words and 1000 four-letter words. In so doing, they learn to recognize word patterns and develop vocabulary and spelling skills. The game is available for Apple, IBM, and Commodore 64, and Atari computers for $34.95.
Number Stumper is a computerized version of a classic 14th century game of chance which teaches basic addition and subtraction to children ages 6 to 10. Available for Apple computers, it is priced at $39.95. Addition Magician is a timed number strategy game that teaches six- to ten-years-olds the basic concepts of addition and flexible thinking about numbers. It is available for Apple, IBM, and Commodore 64 for $34.95.
In Colorsaurus, dancing dinosaurs and a volcanic world teach children aged 3 to 6 color discrimination, matching, and memory skills. The program, which sells for $29.95 is available for Atari computers. Games For Girls
Addison-Wesley announced four innovative games designed specifically for girls. Jenny of the Prairie, Chelsea of the South Sea Islands, Cave Girl Clair, and Lauren of the 25th Century are colorful graphic adventures for the Apple which sell for $39.94 each.
Super STrategies for the SAT is said to teach high school students to "think through" the SAT by providing a complete, computerized method of test preparation. The program shows students what is being tested in each question while helping them to think clearly and take tests more successfully. Currently available for the IBM PC at a suggested price of $79.95, the program will soon be announced for Apple, Atari, Commodore, and PCjr.
Sunburst Communications announced five packages, three of which are also licensed to and marketed by HesWare. The Pond, The Factory, and M-ss-ng L-nks are described above. Sunburst will offer The Pond on disk for Atari, Commodore 64, IBM PC, and TRS-80 Color Computer; The Factory on disk for Apple, Atari, Commodore 64, and TRS-80 Color Computer; and M-ss-ng L-nks on disk for Apple, Atari, IBM PC, and TRS-80.
Memory Castle, for ages 10 to adult, is an adventure-type game for the Apple designed to "stretch the powers of your memory and expand the strength of your concentration." Teasers by Tobbs, for ages 8 to adult, helps players practice arithmetic while developing thinking skills by working through puzzles. It is available for Apple, Atari, and TRS-80.
Computer Software Associates was showing five programs, all offered on cassette for the Vic 20. Math Duel ($19.95), designed for children in grades one through six, teaches basic number skills by pitting the student against a dragon in a den. Tiny Tutor ($19.95) is for youngsters between 2 and 7. It features mathematical problems delivered by "trollies on a track.c Vic Sketch ($14.95) is a seven-color etch-a-sketch. Composer ($14.95) teaches the rudiments of music, enabling the user to compose simple melodies using the computer to key in the notes and rests, and Sprintyper ($19.95) is a tutorial typing program.
For the Commodore 64, CSA announced 64 Pak, an educational package which includes ten programs: Flash Cards, Speed Read, Sign Talk, Life Expectancy, World Clock, States and Capitals, Mortgage Calculator, Big Time, Cash Register, and Perpetual Clock.
A newcomer to the US market is Cymbal Software, a Canadian manufacturer of software for the Commodore 64. Trivia 1 is a quiz game containing 1600 trivia questions on two disks. Also available are educational packages covering English and Spanish, history and geography, science, mathematics, music theory, and pre-school skills. Programs For Elementary Children
American Educational Computer announced 12 programs for elementary school children. The Spelling program is built on the concept of "test--tech--test" which eliminates words the student already knows. Learning about Sounds in Reading introduces phonics and presents the skills necessary for successful reading to children in kindergarten through third grade. The program is available for Apple, Atari 800, Commodore 64, TRS-80 Color Computer, IBM PC, and PCjr.
In the EasyReader series, Learning About Words in Reading 1 and 2 focus on the structure and principles of the English language. The programs are aimed at children in grades 1 through 3 and 2 through 4, respectively. The goal of Reading Comprehension Skills 1, 2, and 3 is to develop the ability to read with a high level of understanding in children in grades 1 through 8. The lessons emphasize integration and application of learning materials.
The Matchmaker series includes five diverse packages: Matchmaker Grammar, Matchmaker Vocabulary, Matchmaker U.S. Geography Facts, Matchmaker World Geography Facts, and Matchmaker Spanish Vocabulary. Packages in the EasyReader and Matchmaker series are available for Apple, Atari 800, IBM PC, Commodore 64, and TRS-80 Color computer and sell for $39.95 each.
Adventure Alpha and The Islands of Beta, available on disk for Apple and Atari, is the first EduVenture package from EduFun. The two problem-solving programs challenge kids 12 and up to solve classic math and logic problems to survive in an adventure-type situation. In The Great Number Chase, kids aged 7 and up create mathematical equations while maneuvering through a maze on the Apple screen.
Word Machine, which is available for Apple and Atari, offers ten levels of difficulty for players who search for hidden words. FourWord and Wordlift offers two games on Apple or Atari disk for ages 7 and up. In FourWord players solve word puzzles, and in WordLift they race against time to alphabetize a group of nine words.
PDI announced seven new packages on disk and cassette for Atari computers. The Pizza Man/Hi Rise Shopper package includes two games intended to build matching and directional skills. Robin's Halloween and Teddy's Magic Balloon are both interactive stories for young children which combine computer programs with voice narration.
Picture Blocks, for children 1 to 4, is designed to build spatial skills and reinforce shape recognition. Sammy and the Lighthouse is a sequel to Sammy the Sea Serpent which requires children to match letters and patterns to help Sammy rekindle the light in the light-house. Gian'ts Tooth includes three games designed to give children aged 4 to 8 practice in classifying sets of geometric objects according to their attributes. The above PDI packages range in price from $21.95 to $36.95 and are available on both disk and cassette.
Also announced by PDI was Franglais, a program designed to help children and adults translate 1000 words and 100 sentences from French to English or English to French. The package is available on disk or cassette for $49.95.
Way in the back of the West Hall in a no-frills booth, we found Alpha Software, a no-frills software company. Their Know How line of self-study programs for the Apple includes 80 packages on topics ranging from auto mechanics to principles of rocketry. Each package holds one disk and a documentation booklet. Pricing is $14.98 for elementary and high school level subjects and $19.98 for college and professional level.
Software announced Flower Power, an educational math game for ages 5 to 15 which encourages players to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. The program is available on disk for Commodore 64 and Apple for $39.95.
For more advanced students, Quick Brown Fox introduced Physics Lab, a tutorial game for Commodore 64. The program provides a simulated world that includes masses, uniform gravity, inclined planes, springs, pendulums, inverse-square gravity, friction, and rolling, and is designed to provide the player with an intuitive understanding of elementary physics.
Impact Marketing was showing a five-album Basic Learning Series designed to supplement school instruction in language arts for children in kindergarten through seventh grade. The packages are available on Commodore 64 disk and Vic 20 cassette and range in price from $34.95 to $89.00.
Commodore introduce ten educational software packages. The new Micro School series features the Commodore Kids, a group of animated children and pets who will provide continuity for the series. Math Facts and Numbers Galore, both aimed at elementary school children, are the first two programs in the series. They are available for the Commodore 64.
From the Milliken EduFun series come programs for children ages 7 to 12. Gulp!/Arrow Graphics for the Vic 20 tests visual and numerical problem solving. Frenzy/Flip flop is available for both the Vic and the Commodore 64. It includes two programs, one of which offers substraction and multiplication practice in a game format; the other tests visual problem-solving skills in recognizing differences between complex colored shapes.
Kinder Koncepts for the Commodore 64 is a series of five disks totalling 40 programs for children in the 4 to 6 age range. Each disk contains four math programs and four reading programs. The programs record and display the child's progress on the screen, allowing parents to monitor performance.
Additional educational packages introduced include Chopper Math and Type Right for the Commodore 64.
Not to be outdone, Coleco announced an entire category of Family Learning software. Included in the category are Adventures in Learning programs which use familiar Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and Smurf characters in educational and entertainment contexts; Homework Helper programs which provide tutorial assistance; and Self-Improvement programs which help users improve their general knowledge skills.
Good grief! Electric Pencil tells me that I have just written 3774 words on educational software at CES. That is more than we gleaned from many strictly educational shows in years past. It certainly seems that the educational software market has come of age. Watch these pages to learn where it goes from here.