DISCovering Biography

By Hofstetter, Janet | Multimedia Schools, March-April 1998 | Go to article overview

DISCovering Biography


Hofstetter, Janet, Multimedia Schools


Company: Gale Research, 835 Penobscot Bldg., 645 Griswold St., Detroit, MI 48226-4094; Sales and Customer Service: 800/877-4253

Price: $500--Windows 3.1/Windows 95 networked annual subscription for 30 users; $20 for each additional user.

ISBN: 0-7876-0916-1

Audience: Producer recommends for grades 9-12; reviewer recommends for grades 6+

Format: CD-ROM: text, black-and-white portraits

                                REPORT CARD

Overall Rating

Installation      A

Content/Features  A

Ease of Use       A-

Product Support   A

Maximum rating: 5 stars

System Requirements: Minimum requirements for an IBM or compatible are an 80386 processor (486DX/33MHz recommended), 8 MB RAM, 5 MB free hard disk space, DOS 5.0 or later, Windows 3.1 or later, Extensions 2.2 or later, SVGA graphics card, monitor with 256-color display, double-speed CD-ROM player, Windows-compatible mouse or pointing device. Printer optional. Most major networks supported.

Description: DISCovering Biography contains nearly 2,000 searchable biographies of well-known personalities in many fields, from ancient to contemporary times and from around the world. Each entry places the subject in his or her historical context, and most entries are accompanied by black-and-white printable portraits.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: I installed this software quickly and easily on two different machines: an IBM-compatible 486 with 8 MB RAM, Windows 3.1, and quad-speed CD-ROM player; and also on an IBM-compatible with a Pentium processor, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95, and 6x CD-ROM player. I tested a stand-alone version that is no longer offered, I did not test a networked version. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: This software is a versatile database of nearly 2,000 biographies of people from ancient and modern world history, including many biblical characters. Some of the biographies are updates drawn from the text of other Gale collections such as Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Black Biography, Contemporary Musicians, and Newsmakers; other entries were commissioned just for this release.

Each biography is accompanied by a high resolution black-and-white portrait that may be enlarged and printed. The introductory information for each individual gives dates of birth and death, variant name(s), nationality, occupation(s), and awards. Each entry also comes with a list of contemporaries, a list of sources for further reading, and a list of the specific events and major world happenings that occurred during the individual's lifetime. This last feature was popular with my students; the record for greatest number was held by Socrates, who had an amazing total of 10, all B.C.

The entire database can be searched by any one of several variables. A name search from the main menu will simply generate an individual's biography; there will be no high-lighting of words in the text if searched by subject, place (city, state, province, or country), or historic era, although all cross-referencing links to people will appear in neon color. A word search will result in a list of articles containing the word and a total number of hits. A subject search will produce a list of people and the total number of items found. The custom search option lets students select nationality, occupation, award, and dates (birth or death year and/or month and day); this type of search offers options for clearing the search, seeing the count of hits, and viewing documents. As with other Gale products, advancing to another part of the alphabet in a listing is achieved by beginning to type the first few letters of the target word. Boolean searching is an option, and selected text may be printed or saved to disk.

We tried a variety of names--from Socrates, Edgar Allan Poe, and Andrew Carnegie to Bill Clinton, Stephen King, and Bruce Willis. We were surprised to find two hits in a full text search for "cattle diseases" as a test of an obscure phrase search using quotation marks. …

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