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Monster deal in a Tiny package;Innovations

Adults might find pink dinosaur Barney scary, but Roger Frost thinks he's a child's dream.

The home computer is another species of computer. It's a creature to be shared by all the family - so the more complete it is, the better adapted it will be. For the home alone machine, borrowing scraps and bits from next door or transplanting extra parts in future is a slog to avoid.

Tiny's Family Package begs attention for its completeness. Included with the latest Pentium computer is a printer, multimedia capability, Internet and a rich mix of software. Just add a talking, gesticulating pink robot and you have almost everything.

Remarkable too is the 30-title software bundle. There's Microsoft's Encarta encyclopaedia, 3D Movie Maker, Flight Simulator, a set of Sesame Street activity disks, as well as Dorling Kindersley's top titles.

But the star here is Barney - the latest in plush interactive toys. Switch on the pink dinosaur and he asks if you want to play a game or sing a song. For example, you squeeze his hand to count numbers, his foot to sing "wheels on the bus" or cover his eyes to play peek-a-boo. Like the TV character he plays, he's totally warm and sweet - even to the point of giving sweetness a bad name.

Barney alone does enough, but the computer age begins when you use his software. You see Barney has a radio link that gets him talking to the child as they work through the software. In each of four CD-Rom titles, Barney is the child's playmate who encourages, sings new songs or compliments them on their choices of shapes, colours and numbers. When they colour in a picture with all the same colours, he charmingly brings it to their attention. When they get things wrong, he's soon in there offering guidance. Even a child not ready for a mouse can play here - they squeeze his hand as the software plays and run it from here. In time, they'll access more challenging exercises because the software has a few tiers of difficulty.

In short, Barney adds a nuance of teacher interaction. Encouraging others and politeness is part of the hidden curriculum here, with the credits going to a prestigious team of teachers and psychologists. Before anyone says "Hey, where are we going with this?", you have to admire the promise for young and special children.

What remains in this package is a smart Epson colour printer. It proves you can get good enough photographic quality for around pound;100. Even on 2p a sheet paper, it's pretty good. With 10p a sheet card, you can really go places and for only pound;30 more, the Epson 660 is yours. Add to this an excellent specification, a bargain price and you see a machine adapted to the 2+2 family - with Barney making one more.

The Tiny Family Computer costs pound;1,150 including VAT and has CD-Rom software titles, Actimate's Barney toy, joystick, speakers, Epson 440 colour printer and 56k modem.


Tiny stand C40 0800 821333

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