SPACE RACE. CD-Rom for Windows Multimedia PCs, Pounds 57.69 including VAT. Available in the high street or from FlagTower (freefone 0500 486 500)
If you are a technophile you may be impressed by video from CD-Rom which fills a quarter of the screen and claims to be in 256 colours, which is only slightly jerky. But if you are a home consumer you are unlikely to be won over.
Digital video is not yet setting the home entertainment market alight, so Flagtower's decision to offer automated documentaries on CD-Rom is quite brave. This new title, The Space Race, is not a replacement for a video presentation. It's a storyboard of images with an audio commentary which can be interrupted to look up extra information on the technical background, on people involved or at items from the contemporary media. It could be a design prototype for interactive television.
But try watching it with the non-technically minded. Why do you have to wait so long between screens? Is that little newspaper clip all there is? Why don't they use the whole screen? Compared with other home-based media it seems rather steam-driven.
So is it any good as a resource in school where we don't want children to work passively. Ideally, we want something which gives a taste of the excitement which gripped the world as men walked on the moon live on TV.
This disc has a lot of information on the Russian and American space programmes and the supposed race to the moon. However the presentation is highly value-laden and subjective.
Multimedia authors still make some curious choices when it comes to content and how to display it. The Space Race offers images of the Mercury 7 and the Vostok team, respectively the American and Russian pilots of the first programmes to put a man in space. The Americans are shown in a video clip (small, indistinct with garish colours). This is followed by a crystal-clear, monochrome image of the cosmonauts which nearly fills the screen. I know which I preferred.
Of course it would be unfair to single out FlagTower for this kind of choice. Generally the quality of screen design and the navigational aids in The Space Race is very high. But it will take something more than this documentary to sign up the woman in the high street.