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CO 77.1 [Fall 1999], pp. 26-29: Oxford Conference on ICT and the Classics; Simulations Reborn: Civilization II, Caesar III; Ancient Origins, Ancient Civilizations; Free Downloadable Software: Nisus Writer, Barrette's Digital Latin Lexicon, Neuberg's Online Latin Dictionary, Teknia Language Tools (Greek), Robertson's Greek Accent Quiz, Alvares' Java Latin Drills.
High-Tech Talks at Amherst and Oxford
There may not have been too many hands-on workshops in the
computer lab at this year's Institute in Amherst, but there was
a notable increase in the number of speakers using a live Internet
connection to make their presentations, mainly demonstrating how
they use "Net"-based resources--such as VRoma, Perseus,
or their own web page--in the classroom. Next year we hope to
have another set of extended, pre-Institute workshops on computer-based
tools. Indiana University is rated in the top 10 "most wired"
colleges by Yahoo Internet Life magazine, so our hopes are high
for some excellent, high-tech experiences.
Not long after the ACL Institute, I had a chance to participate in a unique, new conference at Oxford University in England, entitled "ICT in Classics" (ICT = Information and Communication Technologies, reflecting the expansion of IT to include the growing impact of telecommunications and the Internet). The conference was organized by Julian Morgan, the JACT Computing Coordinator and a member of the ACL's computer committee, who has been doing day-long, in-service workshops on computer tools for several years at Derby Grammar School, where he teaches. The two-day conference at Oxford included lectures in the mornings and workshops after lunch. Among the speakers were Greg Crane of the Perseus Project; Licia Landi of the Lyceo Classico in Verona, Italy; and several specialists from Oxford University Computing Services. Participants hailed from 10 countries around the world, including Lithuania, South Africa, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand. Based on its resounding success, Morgan is anxious to try this again in a few years; and, hopefully, we can do a better job of announcing it here, so that more ACL members may consider attending.
Old Simulations Reborn
Many Classics teachers were discouraged when Microsoft let
its excellent Ancient Lands CD go out of print after only a couple
of years. They may be encouraged to note that several older simulation
programs from major publishers have recently been rising from
the ashes in new, improved versions. Among these are Sid Meier's
Civilization and Impressions' Caesar. The continued difficulty
of converting sophisticated multimedia between Mac and Windows
formats is confirmed by both of these titles, which are each in
only one of the two formats.
The Civilization II upgrade features a substantial narrative introduction with credits, a new standard element in simulations which allows programmers to show off some cutting-edge graphics and replay them every time the CD is started up. The size of the credits list indicates how complicated multimedia programming is becoming.
As the vagueness of the title suggests, you can develop a civilization in almost any context on Earth at varying levels of complexity. The list of setup options gives a fairly clear, if sometimes humorous, impression of the sophistication of the parameters involved. Map ranges: World (small, medium, or large!), Europe, Greece, Medieval, Pacific. Difficulty level: Chieftain, Warlord, Prince, King, Emperor, or Deity (!). Level of competition: 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 civilizations. Level of barbarian activity (my favorite!): villages only, roving bands, restless tribes, or raging hordes. Tribe: Romans, Carthaginians, Greeks, Vikings, Mongols, or Sioux (as well as about 20 others). City style: Bronze Age monolith, classical forum, Far East pavilion, Medieval castle. Depending on the tribe chosen, there will be certain levels set for "beginning knowledge," concerning things like irrigation, mining, and roads.
Apparently, it is possible to mix and match any of these selections with each other, which is bound to result in some rather odd, hypothetical civilizations. The purpose is to demonstrate the effects of various economic and cultural trends on the development of any civilization in a theoretical way. This is consistent with most community management simulations, sometimes referred to as "god games" (with the user playing god). Indeed, the first question posed by a science advisor near the start of a game is: "What discovery shall our wise men pursue?" Among the possibilities are: alphabet, bronze working, ceremonial burial, horseback riding. The danger inherent in a simulation such as this is that students who have a weak grasp of actual history will be easily confused by the ease with which they are allowed to reconstruct it any way they wish. When I started up a game with Romans in Europe, I was dropped into 4000 B.C. with a central building that looked like the Taj Mahal and citizens who looked like cowboys and Indians!
Civilization II comes with a 200-page manual and a very complex chart detailing all of the symbols available in the game, from pottery and polytheism to radio and recycling centers ($69.99). The minimum requirements for the Mac-only CD-ROM are: 68030 CPU, System 7, 2xCD, 8MB RAM, 10MB hard drive space, 256-color monitor. For more information, contact MacSoft, 2300 Berkshire Ln. N, Plymouth MN 55441; tel. 800-229-2714; web: www.wizworks.com/macsoft/homepage.htm.
Caesar Becomes God in "God Game"
Caesar III is the latest update of a fairly popular, community
management simulation (or "god game"). There is now
a 4-minute introduction of credits and glitzy graphics with British
narration. The credits include a long list of American and British
contributors. The main working screen features the same grid
on an angle that Caesar II did, but the graphic symbols are a
bit better, and there is more information available alongside
it. Pop-up labels will assist you until you get used to all the
icons. You have a choice of starting completely from scratch
or using background information and prerequisites for a number
of noted Roman sites, including Caesarea, Carthage, Corinth, Londinium,
Mediolanum, and Valentia.
You begin a game by clearing land and building houses, roads, and water-related structures. As your community becomes more established and complex, more options become available to you. There are also a number of overlays available to help you analyze the health of your community at any point in time; these include: water, risks, entertainment, education, health, commerce, and religion. You can refer to several different advisors along the way for consultation in the areas of Labor, Legion, Ratings, Trade, Population, Health, Education, Entertainment, Religion, Finances. You can confer with a Chief Advisor or the Emperor himself. The menubar gives you a constant tally of the current population and treasury funds, as well as the date (in modern terms, such as "Aug 339 BC").
Caesar III remains in a Windows only form; it comes with a good 220-page manual and a handy symbol reference chart. Hardware requirements are: Pentium 90, 4xCD, 16MB RAM, 16-bit video, 250MB hard drive space. For more information, contact Sierra On-Line, PO Box 85006, Bellevue WA 98015-8506; tel. 425-644-4343; web: www.sierra.com.
"Ancient" Encyclopedia CDs
I referred above to the Microsoft program, Ancient Lands,
which was not really a simulation, but more of a reference work--an
encyclopedia on the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and
Rome. Even though it is no longer in print, there are a couple
of other new contenders in that category, and they also like to
use "Ancient" in their titles.
Ancient Origins is an impressive collection of multimedia material that attempts to cover the development of every major civilization in the world from its earliest known roots to the end of the "ancient" era (500 AD). Obviously, to achieve such coverage, there cannot be a lot of depth involved. Nevertheless, the material that is included is well-presented, and the network of branching connections between population groups and geographical areas could be very effective in teaching the cross-fertilization of cultures.
The CD opens with a brief credit intro and quickly goes to its "main menu" screen--an elegant combination of a spinning realistic Earth on the left side; a sliding, multi-layered timeline of cultural highlights on the right side; a symbolic menubar across the top; and a sliding dateline across the bottom. By sliding a marker across the dateline, you can move the cultural timeline to the period in history you want to examine. The layers of the timeline are organized by geographical area: Europe; West, South, or East Asia; Africa; and North, Central, or South America.
There is usually at least an overview section on each geographical area for any particular time period, but then there are also numerous sections on each particular tribe, culture, or "empire," too. To show how cursory the coverage is, though, you can get a good idea from the material on ancient Rome. There are two sections to consider, besides the "Europe Overview" for the period from 800 BC to 500 AD: either Etruscan Italy and Early Rome (800-0 BC) or the Roman Empire (0-500 AD). Most individual sections, like these, will begin with an introductory paragraph, which offers a map to examine and a narrated slide show (approx. 2 min.) to view. After the slide show, you are shown a "map" of all the related topics and cultures in a web of interconnections. You can jump in wherever you like and get a snapshot (graphic with text) of information, which can then be copied, printed, or bookmarked. When viewing a map, there are often options for adding in roads or trade routes. There is, indeed, a wealth of maps here, some of them "dynamic," showing you the step-by-step unfolding of a battle or migration pattern.
Some of the more unique offerings in Ancient Origins are virtual reconstructions of archaeological sites, layered excavations, and musical instruments. The only classical site with a computerized reconstruction is an Etruscan tomb; there are no classical excavations offered; but the short recordings of actual, reconstructed, Greek and Roman instruments are quite fascinating. They include the Roman lute, organ, and pan-pipes, as well as a Greek lyre. Finally, there is one more option which is becoming a new standard: built-in connections to the Internet which allow you to check on web sites of actual archaeological resources and projects.
It may not include as much detail on classical civilizations as one might like, but Ancient Origins does a good job of providing a worldwide context for their development and a broad perspective on the achievements of other contemporaneous civilizations. This program is conveniently package on a hybrid CD (Mac & Windows). The minimum requirements for Mac are a PowerMac 90Mhz CPU and System 7.1; for Windows you will need at least a Pentium 100Mhz CPU and Windows 95; mutual requirements are: 16MB RAM, 4xCD, 256 colors, and sound; an Internet connection is needed to use online resources. For more information, contact Piranha Interactive Publishing Inc., 1839 W. Drake Ste. B, Tempe AZ 85283; tel. 602-491-0500; web: www.piranhainteractive.com (also available in software stores).
Best of Both Worlds
Ancient Civilizations is a CD-ROM program which seems to blend
the idea of a simulation and a reference work in an interesting
way. It puts the user in the role of a Phoenician merchant who
brings his family with him as he sails around the Mediterranean,
trading all along the way and dealing with the natural challenges
that would face him, like finding food in the less inhabited areas
and fending off pirates. You start off with a boat load of timber
and purple cloth from your home country, as well as a bag full
of coins. You can use those to trade with anyone you meet along
the way; as your cache increases, you can build a factory to process
materials yourself and further build your wealth, thereby improving
the standard of living for your family.
To help inform yourself of the lands that you are trading in, you can ask for information from the reference section, which covers the following topics for each of the major civilizations (Phoenicia, Greece, Rome, and Eqypt): Art & Architecture, Crops & Herds, Family Life, Food & Medicine, Inventions, Land & Climate, Plants & Animals, Religion. There is also some information about smaller civilizations in the area, such as Assyrians, Persians, and Hebrews. Calling up any topic brings you a page or two of text with a representative picture. An odd quirk of the program puts the picture right on top of the text, so that you have to click on it (after you've looked at it) to get it out of the way and read the full text. Other information available to you at any time includes: advice on your next goal, a running inventory of your current holdings, and a status report on your location, score, and the "virtual" date.
Ancient Civilizations comes on a Mac/Windows hybrid CD; the Mac version requires a Color Mac with System 7.0; the Windows side needs at least Windows 3.1 on a 486-DX CPU with sound and a VGA monitor; mutual requirements are: 2xCD, 4MB RAM, and 25MB hard drive space. For more information, contact Entrex Software Inc., PO Box 30029, Victoria BC V8X 5E1, Canada; tel. 250-727-2216; web: www.entrex.org.
Free Downloadable Programs
In closing, I thought I might draw your attention to a few,
complete programs that can be downloaded from the Web now at no
Nisus Writer is a full-featured wordprocessor for the Mac which has built up a strong following among academic writers. Its publishers have just released a new, updated version for both Mac and Windows; and they are making the older version available for free--obviously hoping to sell you on the new version (www.nisus.com).
The Digital Latin Lexicon is a handy, little reference containing 15,000 Latin words and sporting an attractively simple interface in both Mac and Windows formats (www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~barrette/lexicon.html). As you type each letter of the word you want to find, the dictionary automatically moves to the appropriate section. Both this and Matt Neuburg's Online Latin Dictionary (www.tidbits.com/matt) are based on Flora Neumann's online word list, but Neuburg's version is Mac-only and a bit more difficult to use.
For the Hellenists in the crowd, we have two free programs to try out. Matt Neuburg (see URL above) has some Mac HyperCard stacks on Greek verbs and exercises to accompany the JACT Reading Greek text, and Bill Mounce has released the beta version of his Teknia Language Tools for free testing (www. teknia.com).
You can't go wrong when it's free, right?
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