CO 71.3 [Spring 1994], pp. 98-101: Videodiscs discussed; Louvre& National Gallery (Voyager); updates on Perseus, deItalia, TLG, HyperMyth; MacArchitecture, MasterLatin,Denarius Avaricius, Caesar
In my last column I talked about CD-ROM and its significance in the developmentof computer-based resources for the Classics (see CO 71.1 [Fall 1993], 21-22).A related medium which has played second fiddle for many years--first tovideocassettes and now to CD-ROM--is the laserdisc (also known as the videodisc,due to the preponderance of its applications to the storage of video images).The material of which both CDs and laserdiscs are made is basically thesame. The most obvious difference between the two is their size. CD-ROMdisks are 120 mm (4 3/4"), identical to both audio CDs and the actualdisk inside a 5 1/4" floppy case; laserdiscs are almost exactly a footwide, the same size as the old 33 RPM vinyl records.
Laserdiscs came into popular use about fifteen years ago--around thesame time that VCRs began to be an affordable consumer appliance. Like videocassettes,laserdiscs were designed to hold about two hours of full-motion video andan accompanying soundtrack. The economics of the technologies seems to havegiven VCRs a significant advantage, so that laserdiscs never became a majorplayer in the video recording market (just as the VHS format won out overBeta), though there are still a small number of movies available in laserdiscform.
More recently, laserdiscs have become popular for the storage of large collectionsof still photo images (like slides). Two hours of full motion video translatesinto about 54,000 individual images at full capacity. (That's a lot of slides!)It should be noted that CD-ROM disks can handle such video images, too,but their smaller size and their strictly digitized format has delayed theirapplication in this area. Only recently have influential companies likeKodak and RCA been settling on standardized formats for digital storageof high-resolution images on CD-ROM discs.
The range of offerings for laserdisc players is rather limited. The maincompetition runs between Pioneer and Sony. These machines have only recentlycome down under the $1000 mark (which explains their failure up againstVCRs) and can now be found for about $700. They are also capable of playingaudio CDs now--but not CD-ROM disks. The Pioneer CLD-V2400 is availablefor $739.95 from Quality Computers (20200 E. Nine Mile Rd., St. Clair Shores,MI 48080; tel. 800-777-3642). The Sony MDP-1100 is available for $695 fromthe Voyager Company, 1351 Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica, CA 90401; tel.800-446-2001.
Laserdiscs and their players are not dependent on being compatible witha particular computer in order to be useful. What is decisive is that youhave accessing software on your computer that is capable of "talking"to the player and calling up specific images quickly and easily. At thispoint in time, virtually all of the significant laserdiscs available forthe Classics are published with customized accessing software for the Macintoshonly. It is possible, however, to call up the images with a standard laserdiscaccessing program on any computer, but it will probably be more work findingwhat you want and presenting it to a class. It has become common to usebar codes to label image locations in printed indexes; this way a teachercan page through an index and call up an image by merely passing a laserpen over the bar code.
There are two videodisc titles with particular relevance to the Classicsthat I have discussed in previous columns. The Perseus program (see CO 70.3[Spring 1992], 106-7), which is distributed on CD-ROM disks, has an optionalcompanion videodisc. All of the same photographic images of Greek sitesand artwork are contained on both disks, but the images on the laserdiscare of much higher quality and transmissible to a large screen TV monitor.Contact Yale Univ. Press, 92A Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520; tel. 203-432-0912.
The de Italia laserdisc (see CO 69.1 [Fall 1991]), published by the FondazioneGiovanni Agnelli, contains about 15,000 images covering 3,000 years of Italianhistory and culture, including about 1500 with classical relevance (Figure1). The accessing software was written by Voyager (see above), and the Univ.of Wisconsin Classics Dept. was able to get permission to create an accessoryslide show program and distribute the complete package on a nonprofit basis.It is still available--while supplies last--at the reduced cost of $145.Contact the Classics Videodisc Project, 910 Van Hise Hall, Univ. of Wisconsin,Madison, WI 53706; tel. 608-262-2041.
There are a few other laserdisc titles that pop up regularly in conversationsamong Classics teachers, so I wanted to make sure everyone reading thisis aware of them. They are all published and/or distributed by the VoyagerCompany (see contact info above).
First, there is the three-disk set from the Louvre in Paris. Over 4500 worksare covered in 30,000 images. An on-screen caption precedes each image.Some fragile and rarely exhibited pieces are included. The complete set,along with Macintosh HyperCard accessing software, costs $295. The diskscan be purchased individually for $99.95, and the accessing software isan additional $99.95. Since the third disk covers only "Antiquities,"this option might be attractive to Classics teachers. The first disk covers"Painting and Drawing," and the second "Sculpture and Objetsd'Art."
The American counterpart to the Louvre disk is one from the National Galleryin Washington D.C. This disk covers 1600 paintings, drawings, sculptures,and prints, and includes a narrated tour given by the museum's director.The disk alone costs $99.95, and the companion software is an additional$59.95.
Finally, for what it's worth, Voyager is also offering six hours of JosephCampbell and the Power of Myth on three laserdiscs for $124.95.
The discussion of CD-ROM disks for the Classics in my last column includeda description of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and its development (seeCO 71.1 [Fall 1993], 21-2). It turns out that a new TLG update, disk "D,"was recently released. Anyone maintaining a TLG license is able to exchangethe previous "C" disk for the updated version. The text containedin the TLG CD-ROM has been expanded from 42 to 57 million words.
Besides the expanded text the new version has a revised file-naming method,so that any of the text-searching software which is used to access and makeexcerpts from the TLG must be updated to remain compatible. Most programshave been adapted as necessary, including Pandora (Mac) and LBase (IBM-DOS),mentioned in the last column. Pharos (IBM-Windows) and Searcher (IBM-DOS)are not going to be upgraded; however, their author, Randall Smith, haspublished a new program, Scriptorium, for IBM-Windows (and soon for Mac,as well), which can handle the TLG "D" disk, as well as the PHICD-ROM disks #5 and #6 for Latin and Greek (also discussed in the last column).For more info, contact Scriptorium, 15237 Sunset Blvd. Suite 20, PacificPalisades, CA 90272.
Randall Stewart, the creator of HyperMyth, continues to expand its coverageand flexibility. This hypertext program provides easy connections betweenmythological stories and references, allowing students the opportunity totake a quick look into the background of each and every character mentionedin a passage (see CO 69.1 [Fall 1991], 27-8). Originally contained in oneHyperCard stack on a single 800K disk, the program now includes fourteenseparate stacks on four high-density disks (which adds up to about 5MB ofhard disk space for easy running). It is quite possible to use each stackone at a time if you like, too.
Once you've found enough space for it, you will immediately be impressedwith the amount of material contained in it and the ease with which youcan maneuver around through it. The main topics covered are: Olympians,Creation, Heroes, Love Stories, Regional Stories, the Trojan Cycle, theTheban Cycle, Roman Mythology, and Myth in the Stars. There are also useful,supplementary stacks on Maps, Brief Facts, Terms from Myth, Chronology,Name Etymology, and Alternative Spellings.
The thematic sections have introductory index cards that list all the significantcharacters involved and the stories, text, artwork (Figure 2), and familytrees which are available to you for reference. You can even request a properEnglish pronunciation of most of the names. (All of the textual materialis in English, too.) A number of multiple-choice quizzes, or "self-tests,"are available in most sections.
Like any good hypertext program, HyperMyth may at first overwhelm the userwith its wealth of options. The burden is on the user to set a purposefuldirection and maintain focus. A 252-page companion text provides virtuallyall of the same information on the disks in a more traditional, linear format.The complete package sells for $89.95; a site license is available to elementaryand secondary schools for $325. Quantity discounts are available to collegebookstores. For more info, contact Hermes Publishing Co., P.O. Box 58063,Salt Lake City, UT 84158; tel. 800-944-6984.
A new release from Intellimation offers a fascinating look at the contributionsof classical architecture in both form and nomenclature. MacArchitecturecontains detailed presentations on Greek and Roman building materials, styles,and inventions (Figure 3). The visuals in this program are truly stunning,and the information presented is very thorough. Highlighted words in thedescriptive essays can be called up in a glossary. Wandering around theRoman Forum with the mouse/cursor produces pop-up captions on significantstructures. One can switch between a digitized photograph, an overview map,and a graphic interpretation of the Forum to get different perspectiveson all of the buildings involved.
After getting a good look at this program, I was not surprised to find outthat the author, Trey Cosgriff, had won a grand prize at the Apple EducationSolutions HyperCard Contest in 1991, when he completed the first half onGreek architecture. Cosgriff teaches western civilization and literatureat the Discovery Center School in San Francisco. Anyone who even toucheson the subject of classical architecture or has students interested in itcould find this program invaluable. The program costs $45 for a single copyand $179 for a site license (P.O. Box 1922, Santa Barbara, CA 93116; tel.800-346-8355).
Intellimation has also released significant upgrades for Pandora (see above),MacLang, and HyperGreek (see CO 70.3 [Spring 1993], 108). MacLang 4.5 nowprovides for wildcard answers (allowing separate stem and ending correction)and the importing of text files containing questions and answers createdon a wordprocessor. HyperGreek 2.4.1 has been expanded to almost 5.5MB ofHyperCard stacks, with another 5MB of audio recordings for pronunciationmodeling.
While many of the artificial intelligence programmers have been gettingbogged down on the fine points of natural language grammar (the ones thatdon't follow any rules), Edward Bailey has managed to show what's feasiblewhen you confine yourself to the basics. Bailey is a technical writer whogot fascinated with the programming that he was writing about for IBM compatiblesand decided to try it out on Latin. The result of his efforts is a programthat can correct virtually any translation from English into Latin withincarefully prescribed limits. The student must use the vocabulary words providedand only the amount of grammar that has been presented in roughly the firstyear of a high school Latin class. This is no small feat, and it is donesmoothly and speedily by MasterLatin.
A list of the necessary Latin vocabulary (without meanings) is presentedwith each English sentence. After the user attempts a translation, a correctionchart points out mistakes on a word-for-word comparison. (No particularword order is enforced.) At this point, help is available in the form ofa detailed parsing for any word requested. The standard number of triesper sentence is three, but this and many other parameters can be changed.Scores are recorded and can be printed out after a sentence set is completed.
MasterLatin is currently published in four versions, to accompany Wheelock,Jenney (1990), Ecce Romani (Books 1-2), and Cambridge Latin Course (Unit1)--all for IBM-compatibles (cost: $59.95, includes site license). The manualfor each version spells out the vocabulary and the grammar that are supported.Though the program includes several sample test files, its real power comesout in the editor module, which allows a teacher to make up original sentenceswithin the prescribed range. The program immediately translates them foryou to verify that it will be able to handle it properly during studentusage. Changing the parameters of the program can be done either from theDOS command line or through an introductory menu. Detailed instructionsare provided in a 31-page manual. For more info, contact Bailout Software,18 Sturtevant St., Beverly, MA 01915; tel. 508-922-6076.
Many people ask me about programs for the Classics that have more ofthe color, sound, animation, and slick graphics that you see in popularsimulations like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and SimCity. UsuallyI don't have much to tell them. Recently, though, I have gotten word ofa couple of programs that at least use a classical setting. Even if theydon't necessarily teach too much in the way of language, history, or culture,they might serve to spur more curiosity and questions.
Winthrop Dahl of Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton, MA, sent me a copyof a shareware program called Denarius Avaricius. Coincidentally, I hadjust run across it myself in a shareware catalog from Software Labs (3767Overland Ave. #112, Los Angeles, CA 90034; tel. 310-559-5456). This programfollows the typical interactive fiction scenario of moving from room toroom, building to building, trying to figure out what items need to be pickedup and when to use them to get access to another room or building, alwayswith some ultimate life-or-death goal in mind. The backdrop in this programis Pompeii during the eruption of Vesuvius, and the cast of characters areclose to some of the stereotypes of Roman comedy: a nagging wife, a drunkenslave, and a greedy Roman businessman (the program's namesake), among others.Since it's shareware, the price is hard to beat ($8); but, remember, thisis just a demo license. If you decide to use the program regularly aftertrying it out, you are expected to send another $15 directly to the authors.(That's the shareware way!)
Belle Goebel, a retired Latin teacher from Madison, WI, put me on to a new,colorful simulation called Caesar, which follows in the tradition of communitymanagement software like SimCity and Civilization. These programs put theuser in the position of decision maker for a community (city, nation, planet),who must make initial "founding" decisions about location andlayout, and later on must handle periodic adjustments to variables likefood production, taxation, and wages, as various influential events (naturaland man-made) occur over time.
As you might imagine, Caesar operates in the context of the Roman army'searly colonization of the provinces, starting out with setting up a well-organizedcamp, which gradually evolves into a market town and later a provincialcenter. This program, as well as a similar one called Cohort II, is publishedby Impressions Software, 222 Third St. #0234, Cambridge, MA 02142; tel.617-225-0848. The list price is $60, but she found it in a local softwarestore for only $39.
Well, that should about do it for me for now! By the way, have you triedsurfing on the Internet yet?