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CO 69.1 [Fall 1991], pp. 26-29: Hypertext, multimedia, and authoring systems discussed; Transparent Language, Tutrix, Perseus, Dasher, Prompt, HyperMyth, de Italia


That may seem like a mouthful, but don't let the big words scare you too much! After all, they're just a couple of nice, classically derived compounds created to label some new concepts in the world of high technology.

First, using our wealth of etymological knowledge, we classicists can immediately decipher "hypertext" as "text (or that which is woven) above or beyond." Ever since words have been written down, they have been restricted to the two-dimensional surface of the paper (or papyrus). Computers have recently given us the capability of weaving into a textual passage an unlimited number of textual layers, which can offer meaningful extensions to any part of the passage when their appearance is requested by the reader. Until that time they are kept out of sight--but always on call.

Such a tool is most applicable to any of the text-based fields of study, including the Classics. What it means for us is that it is possible to tie all kinds of textual references (notes, commentary, vocabulary listings, etc.) to each and every word in a piece of literature and make them accessible to a student at the touch of a button, as he or she reads.

"Multimedia" can refer to any method of presentation that utilizes "more than one means of communication." Most commonly it suggests the addition of audio or video-based materials (either on tape or disk) to the standard repertoire of computer text and graphics. When the two concepts of "hypertext" and "multimedia" are merged, we end up with something known as "hypermedia." This extends the range of hypertext references to include such things as audio recordings on compact disc or photographic slides on videodisc. The designers of the Macintosh computer have even tried to include all of these options within the same machine, so that their newer models offer sophisticated voice and music production, as well as high-resolution, color video images projected right on the same screen as the text.

These ideas may still seem like science fiction to some of us, but there are some real programs available now or in the works that will let you find out for yourself if they can be useful to you in the classroom or not.


Transparent Language is a new program that demonstrates the hypertext concept by providing entire stories in a foreign language, including Latin, with several types of reading assistance, such as: word and sentence translation, word grouping by highlight, and notes on special points of grammar or vocabulary. All of these forms of help will appear automatically in labeled boxes at the bottom of the screen when a student selects a word in the text. For a greater challenge, some types of help can be restricted from appearing until requested. Audiotape voice recordings are provided to assist in pronunciation development, but they are not electronically connected to the text as hypermedia.

The three Latin modules now available are "Selections from Ovid's Metamorphoses," "Twenty Four Poems of Catullus," and "Fendricks' Rumpelstultulus." The program runs on IBM-compatibles and costs $99 for a package including the master program, all three Latin text modules, three short non-Latin modules, and audiotapes of all six modules. Site licenses are negotiable. Contact: Transparent Language, 9 Ash St., Box 575A, Hollis, NH 03049, tel. (800) 752-1767 or, in NH, (800) 244-8952. The publisher is also looking for teachers who are interested in creating new modules for them.


Tutrix is a program which uses hypertext to provide a tutorial type of assistance in the reading process. Using short text modules of 30-40 lines of text, the program provides vocabulary listings for every word in the text, as well as grammatical, literary, and historical notes. Multiple-choice questions are asked of the student on three levels: translation, syntax, and morphology. Incorrect answers will lead automatically to lower level questions; correct answers lead back to higher level questions. The student can either follow the guidance of the tutorial protocol or choose to move along independently. A performance record is kept on disk and can be printed out after a session or anytime later.

Tutrix was developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to assist students in making the transition from elementary grammar and vocabulary acquisition to the literate reading of authentic Latin. It is now published by: Centaur Systems, P.O. Box 3220, Madison, WI 53704, tel. (608) 255-6979. The two modules now available are: Vergil's Aeneid I:1-33 and Cicero's In Catilinam I:1-34. A site license for the program, including one module, is $95; the second module is $45; a demo disk of either module is $10.


Certainly the most impressive application of hypermedia in the field of Classics is the Perseus Project (CO 67 [1989]: 23, 42-48). Developed over the last five years at Harvard University with major funding from the Annenberg Foundation, the Perseus program now contains the entire corpora of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Herodotus, Thucydides, Pindar, Pausanias, and a portion of Plutarch. The Greek original can be viewed side by side with the English translation from the Loeb Library. Word searches can be performed on either side. The abundant multimedia references include a historical overview text, a Greek lexicon and parser, an atlas of geographical and archaeological site maps, satellite photos, and a huge collection of artwork and landscape slides--all on disk. Students can roam freely through the wealth of material to research a chosen topic, or teachers can prepare a special "path" or sequence of material for students to peruse.

Perseus 1.0 is due to be published this fall by Yale University Press. (Contact: Charles Grench, Yale Univ. Press, 92A Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520; price not yet available.) The program package will be distributed on one compact disc (or CD) and one videodisc, requiring an Apple-compatible CD player and a Macintosh SE or better with a hard disk and 2MB of RAM (optimal configuration: Mac II, SE/30, or better, and 4MB of RAM). The video images can be accessed with a videodisc player (Pioneer/Sony) and video monitor or an Apple high resolution color monitor with 8-bit video card.


In response to a number of requests I have received in workshops, I thought I should mention a few authoring programs for those who might be interested in putting together their own customized drills without having to learn a programming language. Authoring programs provide a skeletal structure into which a teacher can enter questions and answers or vocabulary words for drilling.

First, for the Apple II crowd, there is the tried and true Dasher program, first published in 1983 and specifically designed for foreign language applications. It has a fairly strong capacity to correct even short sentences and phrases by noting missing words and misspellings. Teachers may enter brief instructions and an example for each drill set along with an indefinite number of drill items (usually less than ten per set).

When a student is running a drill, there is no limit to the number of chances to answer a question. Command options are available to return to the menu, skip to the next drill set, quit the program, or get the answer to the current question. The student is always required to type in the correct answer, even if it has been provided.

Dasher is published by Conduit, an educational software press affiliated with the University of Iowa. The full Conduit package contains disks for French, Spanish, German, and English (price: $150). At the instigation of Judith Lynn Sebesta, chair of the ACL's Methodology Committee, a Latin authoring disk (with macrons) was created soon after Dasher was introduced. Since Conduit does not include the Latin disk in their package, they have given me permission to distribute copies of it to any interested parties who have already purchased the full program from them. To order the Dasher program or get more information, contact: Conduit, Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, tel. (800) 365-9774. To get the Latin disk, send me (address above) a proof of purchase (invoice copy or colored cover page from user manual binder) and either a blank 5 1/4" disk with a self-addressed, stamped ($0.98) floppy disk mailer or $3 to cover the costs of same.


On the IBM-compatible side of the table, there is PROMPT, an authoring program which provides a format to test reading comprehension with either multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank drills. Teachers enter the text passage of their choice and may provide as much vocabulary assistance as they like (via hypertext). When creating a multiple choice drill, it is possible to include feedback specific to each wrong choice, as well as a general hint or clue for each question. The fill-in-the-blank drill is really a cloze-type exercise in which the teacher blanks out certain critical words in the passage to be filled in by the student.

PROMPT comes with a dozen sample exercises in English, Spanish, French, and German ($99; demo disk: $5). Accents are available for those languages, but there is no macron for Latin, unless you care to use the carat or circumflex (^) for that purpose. Contact: Gessler Publishing Co., 55 W. 13th St., New York, NY 10011, tel. (212) 627-0099.

Gessler also lists two other authoring systems, which I have not had an opportunity to try yet. The Linguist appears to be a flashcard drill for vocabulary or phrases, running on Apple II, Commodore 64, Atari (except ST), and IBM-compatibles ($44.95). Passport runs only on Apple IIs and enables the use of color graphics to complement lessons and tests ($125; demo disk: $5).

As far as Macintosh goes, I know of only one authoring system specifically adapted for foreign language use, and that is the MacLang program, which I referred to in my first column (CO 67 [1989]: 23). There is now a new version of the program (4.0) which provides multimedia capabilities (exercises linked to audio or video images), available from: Intellimation, P.O. Box 1922, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1922, tel. (800) 346-8355; single copy: $89.95; lab pack: $359.80.

Please note: Most of these publishers will be happy to put you on their catalog mailing list, even if you just want to keep abreast of new developments for future consideration.


A recent and welcome addition to the Macintosh software offerings for the Classics is a new HyperCard-based mythology program, appropriately called HyperMyth. This program is meant more as a reference tool than a method of instruction or practice. It makes excellent use of HyperCard's ability to provide fast cross-referencing between different sources of information. Each major mythological character has their own descriptive story, including the usual cast of other notorious characters. If a character's name appears in bold print, it has been cross-referenced to another story or a family tree, and its appearance there may be seen merely by clicking on the name in bold.

There is also a small collection of maps (Attica, the Peloponnese, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean), which will pinpoint the location of various place names appearing in the stories. A special adaptation on some of the maps allows one to see the voyages of Aeneas, Theseus, and Jason chronologically drawn for you. All of the names included on the disk are listed under two main indexes, which are themselves labeled with appropriate icons: gods and demigods appear in the Parthenon index, while place names appear in the Atlas index. Two other icon-labels refer to the search utilities: Cadmus will help you find a personal name, while Apollo will locate a place name for you. The icons or names of these indexes and utilities appear at all times for easy access.

HyperMyth 2.0 requires HyperCard 2.0, Macintosh System 6.0.5, a high-density disk drive (FDHD), and either a hard disk or a second floppy drive to run HyperCard on. Contact: Hermes Publishing Co., P.O. Box 58063, Salt Lake City, UT 84158-0063, tel. (801) 581-7753; price: $29.95.


Returning to the hypermedia theme that I started with, I am happy to announce the recent public release of a videodisc called de Italia. Produced by the Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli, with accompanying access software written by the Voyager Co., this collection of 50,000 slides covers a broad spectrum of Italian culture and history, from the founding of Rome to the present, including many of the ancient ruins and artifacts. Probably 10% of the material is directly connected to the classical period, but much of the later material also has classical allusions and useful contextual information.

Prof. Jeffrey Wills of the University of Wisconsin-Madison took the initiative to persuade the Italian foundation to extend the publication of their videodisc beyond its originally planned limited release. Wills and grad student Geoffrey Revard wrote additional HyperCard software to make it easy for students to create their own programmed slide shows. By selecting, ordering, and writing captions for shots of their own choosing from the videodisc, students can avoid some of the problems that would be caused by using a departmental set of loose slides which are easy to lose and hard to share or replace. With the de Italia setup, students each create their own list of slide numbers and captions and can later run their presentations consecutively from the same videodisc. Preparation time still has to be coordinated around the single videodisc and its equipment.

The de Italia videodisc makes a nice complement to the Greek collection provided on the Perseus videodisc. Both run on Pioneer or Sony videodisc players ($900 and up), connected to a TV-type video monitor ($300 and up). Wills is distributing the de Italia videodisc, a printed index book, and 12 diskettes of software on a non-profit basis for $245. The software will run on any Macintosh computer with 1 Mb of RAM and a hard disk with room for 3-10 Mb of HyperCard stacks. Contact: Videodisc Project, Dept. of Classics, 910 Van Hise Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, tel. (608) 262-9755 (or -2041).


Finally, the ACL Committee on Educational Computer Activities is soliciting documented examples of computer applications in the Classics classroom at all levels. Ideally, this would entail videotapes of actual demonstrated usage, following some kind of enunciated plan or format. A variety of environments (classroom, library, computer lab), applications (lesson, remediation, enrichment), and software types (drill-and-practice, simulation, tutorial) are sought. If your communication arts department is seeking ideas for class videotape projects, why not suggest this one? You can do the profession a great service, have a little fun, and get your name in the credits! Your students will probably enjoy the thrill of getting on camera even more than you will! Contact me at the address above if you are interested.

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