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Beer and liquid phones

TECHNOLOGY TYPES Age range 15-18 CD-Rom for Multimedia Windows PC (minimum 486 with 8 megabytes of memory) Pounds 77 inc postage (Pounds 47 for Technology Enhancement Programme members) from The Engineering Council, Essex House, 12-13 Essex Street, London WC2 3EG. Tel: 0171 240 7891 E-mail:

How products are brought to market is the business of this multimedia CD-Rom. It has been put together to support GNVQ courses in manufacturing and engineering although there's also a wink at GCSE or Standard grade Design and Technology.

The package takes you through every step of the process. It describes how the market works and how products are designed. It talks about materials and how they are shaped and put together. Yes, the text is read aloud, while video actually shows processes such as milling or blow moulding. It is reference material, but to listen and watch it all would probably fill a teaching day.

When you find key words such as "ergonomic" or "product specification" you can click on them and get a substantial explanation. For example, you might click on "stereo lithography" and see a sort of "3D laser printer" create a plastic telephone shell from a liquid. Features like this show the value of using CD-Rom - if only computers were better at showing video.

It is really handy that you can also copy the text and pictures and so plunder this for your own material. Surprisingly, the program puts your word processor on the screen, ready for you to drop things into it.

Three case studies show the theory in context. There's much detail about beer making by Bass, about making high-tech machinery, and about the market considerations of Maclaren's the baby-buggy people. Clips of video throughout greatly help the understanding.

Some other useful bits are thrown in: there's a detailed database of materials and a demonstration copy of DesignView - a stunning design and modelling program.

This is a resource you'd want to have in the library, but a few things knock it down to a half-good product. The text is heavy going and it makes few concessions to its audience.

Many will stumble, especially at GCSE level. What's amiss, and that's a pun, is that females hardly feature at all. Come on boys, is this 1956 or what?

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