Multimedia Spreads Its Wings: New Applications for the Amiga and the PS/2

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Multimedia Spreads Its Wings: New Applications for the Amiga and the PS/2

We all know that "interactive multimedia" involves a Macintosh computer, HyperCard software, and a videodisc player, right? Not necessarily. It's true that during 1989 and early 1990 many of the exciting video-based multimedia programs announced for the education market were designed to run on the Macintosh. (This was attributable in part to the popularity of HyperCard--a tool well-suited for multimedia presentations--and in part to Apple's active role in encouraging educational multimedia development). It's also true that producers such as ABC News Interactive and WGBH continue to announce powerful videodisc-based educational titles for the Mac.

But now the field was widened. When Jostens Learning Corporation and Britannica Software introduced Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia several months ago, educators finally had the chance to see a school-oriented multimedia reference tool running on an MS-DOS computer (generally a Tandy 2500 XL) with sound and images taken from a CD-ROM rathern than a videodisc. (For a review of Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia, see Technology & Learning, September 1990, p. 36.) And now, as we enter the 1990-1991 school year, Commodore and IBM--two companies with legitimate claims to leadership roles in the area of multimedia--are touting new programs that illustrate the power of interactive multimedia to educate young people.

Multimedia History

Commodore's Amiga, with its multi-tasking capabilities, low price tag, and ability to display video on the computer screen, is an ideal computer for multimedia applications. Until recently, however, the majority of software packages that took advantage of the machine's features were tools--graphics and music programs, video titling and production software, and so on. Now, in partnership with Scholastic, Inc., Commodore has produced an educational application that uses videodisc images and sound to teach students about American history.

Visions of American History: Struggles for Justice is a two-volume program--the first in a planned series of interactive multimedia titles for the Amiga. Volume one (scheduled to ship next month) focuses on the struggles of three groups: African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans. Volume two (still in development) focuses on women, labor, and immigrants. Both volumes were created using AmigaVision, Commodore's new hypermedia authoring tool.

Unlike so many interactive videodisc applications which require a two-screen setup (one screen for video and the other fo computer-generated text and graphics), Struggles for Justice combines video and computer output on a single Amiga monitor by using a Genlock card (available from Commodore and third-party developers for approximately $100). The program offers historical footage, dramatic reenactments, text, photographs and paintings, speeches and interviews, graphs, charts, and a variety of other images and sounds.

This information can be accessed by students and teachers in a variety of ways. One choice is to be guided by the program's main menus. For each of the three groups covered on the videodisc, these menus offer several chronoligical themes. Each theme, in turn, is presented using a video overview and one or more stories based on oral histories and personal accounts.

For example, the struggles of Native Americans are organized around the themes "relocation," "reservations," and "reclaiming our rights." Select the first theme and the program presents a documentary overview of the U.S. government's relocation policies and their effects on various Native American groups. If you're interested in a more detailed and personal account, you can then select the story of the Apaches and their forced relocation to the San Carlos reservation.

At any point in the program, a user can choose an alternative path by selecting one of the many on-screen navigation buttons. …