The Detectives: the Victorians. Software for Acorn A-series computers. Pounds 39.95 + VAT. Sherston Software, Swan Barton, Sherston, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 0LH
As an historical topic for primary pupils, the Victorians have not really attracted much in the way of software support on Acorn computers.
Apart from Longman-Logotron's Victorians, little modelling and simulation-style software has been available. Sherston Software's Time Detectives: The Victorians is a major simulation adventure-style package written specifically for this topic in the history curriculum.
It comprises four discs, user and classroom guides, background information cards relating to the program, posters and plans.
The plot involves three children from the town of Heston, who have been transported back to the Victorian era. The user, having divined the secret of time travel, then has to to discover their whereabouts in history. To prove a worthy time-traveller, various items and events must be placed in correct chronological sequence on a time line.
On skipping backwards and forwards through time, it becomes apparent that the three missing children have displaced various items. These have to be found and returned to their correct era.
There is an "Upstairs, Downstairs" game in a large Victorian house and finally, a rescue mission for the three children who upset the "time balance".
All these activities are designed to heighten a child's awareness of social and domestic issues, inventions and technological change and to consider the effects that changes in the past have had upon their own lives.
Many of the games and challenges in Time Detectives require children to find information for themselves and there are substantial support materials to help with this.
A single program like Time Detectives cannot hope to cover all aspects of such a large historical subject, but aims instead to stimulate and motivate further study. The program can easily be extended to work in other aspects of Victorian Britain.
In common with all recent Sherston products, Time Detectives shares conventional loadsaveset-upprint routines and has been designed so that illustrations can be easily saved or transferred to other applications. It is fully RiscOS compliant and is started via a key disc which is highly protected in order for their approval scheme to operate.
This program lifts the Victorians out of the textbook and places them in a meaningful and exciting context certain to motivate and captivate children. It will not present them with answers on a plate, but encourages research techniques and skills. It certainly presents the Victorians in a highly original and entertaining way.