A round-Britain tour on your desktop

14th March 1997 at 00:00
THE ORDNANCE SURVEY INTERACTIVE ATLAS OF GREAT BRITAIN CD-Rom for Windows Multimedia PCs (minimum PC 486 DX with 8 mb of memory and 8mb of disc space) Pounds 39.99 inc VATAttica Interactive Ltd, Angel Court, St Clements, Oxford OX1 4AW.

The Ordnance Survey Interactive Atlas of Great Britain, you would think, is the sort of project that would be a success in any market conditions. On the surface the publishers have all the right ingredients: a topic of both general and educational interest, the opportunity to annotateactivate an essentially static medium (maps) and the database of the Ordnance Survey, the world's premier cartographic organisation.

The basic concept, too, looks promising. Take an area in which you are interested and increase or decrease the scale at will. Add to this core a range of map skill explanations, video clips, a gazetteer, photographs, historical notes, 3-D diagrams, facts and figures about Europe, etc, and surely you have the perfect product.

Sadly, there's the nagging doubt that this CD-Rom is more about the medium than the message. All the constituent parts are better in their original media and together they don't produce a meaningful whole. If you want to read a map, buy a map. The detail will be clearer, the handling quicker and the applications (in the field, in the classroom, in the car) greater. If you want to find out where places are, buy the atlas. For a travelogue around Britain, buy a tourist video, etc.

Fear of being labelled a Luddite has caused me to share my views with several other teachers. They agree. This is a good product but it ought to be great. Perhaps with a bigger computer screen and much greater resolution on the maps I might view it all differently. Perhaps, with care and a little preparatory work, it will prove to be the ideal tool for schools. Perhaps, but somehow I doubt it.

Of course, you should judge for yourself. You will find excellent menu-driven screens taking you round the product and there is plenty of valuable work available on the topic map skills. Also, there are some fun tests on the geography of Great Britain. Beyond that, I'm not so sure.

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