Encarta Africana

By Dunn, Agnes | MultiMedia Schools, March/April 1999 | Go to article overview

Encarta Africana


Dunn, Agnes, MultiMedia Schools


Company: Microsoft Corp., 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399; Sales: 800/426-9400; Free Technical Support: 425/635-7172; Pay-Per-Incident Support: 800/936-5600; http:// encarta.msn.com/.

Price: $49.00 during 1999 after mailin rebate. Windows 95/98/NT Workstation 4.0 or later. Network pricing currently not available.

Audience: No age specified. Reviewer recommends middle and high school.

Format: 2 CD-ROMs: text, video, photographs, maps, and audio

System Requirements: A multimedia PC with a 486DX/60 MHz or higher microprocessor (Pentium preferred) running Windows 95 or higher, 16 MB RAM for Windows 95, 24 MB RAM for Windows 98 and Windows NT, 30 MB hard disk space available, 2x CD-ROM. Super VGA, 256-color monitor supporting 640x480 or higher resolution, MB video memory, sound card, and speakers are required. For the Research Organizer an additional 5 MB hard disk space is needed. The Web links require a 9600 bps or faster modem and Internet access.

Description: Encarta Africana: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Black History and Culture is the latest in the series of Encarta reference works. The two-disc set contains more than 3,000 articles; 2,000 maps, photos, charts and tables; six video travelogues of historic sites; and six virtual tours using 360-degree photography. The result is an exhaustive, yet engaging, analysis of the history, geography, and legacy of people of African descent. Reviewer Comments:

Installation: I tested this software on a Fujitsu LifeBook 400 laptop PC with a 133 MHz Intel Pentium processor, MMX technology, 16 MB EDO RAM running Windows 95. It has a 256-color display with 800x600 resolution, 1 MB video RAM, 1.36 GB hard drive, lOx CD-ROM, sound chip, and stereo speakers. Installation was a simple point-and-click process. The only unusual aspect of this installation is that the Research Organizer must be installed separately. Installation Rating: A+

Content/Features: Encarta Africana is an important addition to the body of knowledge on the people, places, events, movements, and heritage of the continent of Africa. Compiled by a team of scholars under the direction of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, in collaboration with his colleague, Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Chairman of the Committee on African Studies, the Encarta Africana has a scholarly focus. Information is accessed by following pathways to different types of media and resources from the home page. The welcome, a video introduction by Gates and Appiah, and the overview, a useful summary of resources, set the purpose for the project and furnish a ready reference for first-time users. The Articles grouping contains more than 3,000 essays on topics relating to the cultural geography and history of Africa from 4 million BCE to the present. These text documents, the largest body of knowledge within the program, provide a comprehensive research base. A special read-aloud function allows the user to hear the text. The sidebar section contains approximately 100 primary source documents to complement the encyclopedic material, adding greater depth and divergent points of view.

The Timeline is an interactive, graphic representation of world history as it relates to Africa. The user moves the cursor along the line to travel through time and gain detailed descriptions of events or civilizations. The Timeline provides a convenient visual overview and is an appropriate place for students to recognize the extent of African involvement in world history.

The Features grouping is the visual counterpart of the articles and is what sets this program apart from a multivolume encyclopedia. Seven sections provide information in a visual manner. An "Interactive Africa map" provides political and topographic information and explores the habitat of native flora and fauna. "Africa on Camera" highlights important topics through video lectures, such as U. …

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