The way we were

4th December 1998 at 00:00
HOW WE USED TO LIVE: 1936-1953. CD-Rom for PC and Acorn. YITM, The Television Centre, Kirkstall Road, Leeds LS3 1JS. Pounds 59.99 plus VAT. Designed principally for pupils of key stage 2 history unit 3b, Britain Since 1930, the CD-Rom How We Used to Live: 1936-1953 is, in most respects, among the best of its kind: accessible, colourful and comprehensive. Even so, it has shortcomings.

The Hodgkins family of Yorkshire provides the central focus throughout the years covered by the program. Linked to their experiences are the great events of the period - the time leading up to the Second World War, the war itself, Britain's post-war reconstruction - on which users can access more detailed inform-ation by clicking on a three-level index, a timeline or a button marked Investigate History.

The result is easy, effective learning. When, for example, a video clip shows Avril Hodgkins so surprised by the sight of a black GI she falls off her bicycle, the scene is cross-referenced with a series of slides, complete with printed and spoken commentary, that outline the extent of US army discrimin-ation against its own black servicemen. Pursuing the theme, users may move from here to indexed entries on, say, Hitler and racial supremacy, Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics and the South African system of apartheid. All these entries can be stored for later arrangement into a series or presentation.

Overall, this is a marvellous resource. The slides are well-chosen, and there are intriguing tit-bits on subjects as varied as Squanderbugs, spivs and the National Health Service - all of them cleverly tied in with the changing life and times of the Hodgkins family.

So what will make the finicky fret? For a start, the observation that "one week's paid holiday" was enjoyed by workers in 1939. Or the passage that names "Issac Shoenberg" as a television pioneer. "Italy surrender, and Jimmy is moved to a POW camp in Germany", we read elsewhere. Over-particular?

Perhaps. But at the price asked, shouldn't an application be trouble-free?

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