Microsoft Encarta 96 World Atlas
Age range: 7 upwards
CD-Rom Pounds 49.99
Tel: 0345 002000 for stockists
The Microsoft Encarta 96 World Atlas is, as one would expect, a slick presentation aimed squarely at a general audience. It has some attractive features and, if you have a machine powerful enough to use it, is well programmed.
It was developed for the American market but it is difficult to believe that children there do not have to study detailed weather data at some stage in their school career. English children most certainly do and it would have been better if an atlas such as this could be the reference work to find the detail.
However, at the moment, the Internet is a better source of information. Sites such as the amazing Weathernet (http:cirrus.sprl.umich.eduwxnet) contain vast amounts of up-to-the-minute data.
It does try to give a human dimension to the facts and figures by its use of Family Portraits. You can meet 31 families from across the world and learn how their life differs from yours. You can fly above the earth and come down to look at a particular area in detail.
The atlas is particularly strong on facts and figures. You can compare statistics from 1965 to 1995. Projections are also available up until 2020. There are 3,000 images and 4,000 sound clips. It can be previewed at the Microsoft Web site http:www.microsoft.comewa. Worksheets for American schools are included.
Linking the Microsoft Web site with the CD-Rom does mean that some of the defects could be remedied in the future.
The World Atlas runs exclusively on Windows 95 or Windows NT 3.1 and requires at least 8 megabytes of memory. If you do not have this, it will not work and it does not run at all on Windows 3.1.
As a work of reference for the library, this is a fine, rich resource. It is a pleasure to use and gives a good overview of Earth. As a tool for geographers, there are features that will be useful but it could have been so much better.