With computers now abounding in British schools, there is a growing awareness that computer games can be much more than a play toy. The computer can act, quite uniquely, as both teacher, calculator, blackboard and entertainer all at the same time. To match the swelling interest in education by computer, more software houses are producing more and more teaching materials in a games form. To reflect this trend CRASH will be doing regular articles on educational games and reviewing programs as they become available. These reviews, like all others, will also be entered in the Guide Section as we go along.
One of the first software houses to specialise in programs for young children is Widgit Software. They have just announced their two newest titles (on a single tape). The Humpty Dumpty Mystery and Who Killed Cock Robin are two detective stories to develop skills in logical thinking (see the review in this issue). This latest tape is only one of a range of seven titles which Widgit have released over the past six months. Counting, Adding & Subtracting and Quickthinking (which is published by Mirrorsoft) are for developing numerical skills. Spatial observation and skills are developed with Shape Sorter and Pathfinder. A further title in this series will be released before Easter.
There are plans to release more titles early in 1984, and also to convert existing titles to the Commodore 64, BBC Model B and Electron. Mike and Tina Detheridge, who run Widgit, have increased their programming workforce to meet these needs, but they still maintain a very firm editorial control. The programs must meet the Widgit criterion of giving the player enjoyment and motivation but at the same time having a real educational content to develop a child intellectually. Widgit programs are tried out in schools and are modified according to the reactions of teachers and pupils. Tina says that general standards in educational software have risen a lot in the last few months and that Widgit are intending very definitely to keep in the forefront of developments and provide programs of high quality and good value for money for home and school use.
It’s a bit of a mouthful, but The National Magazine Co, under the imprint of Ebury Software, are soon planning to release titles under the heading of Good Housekeeping Software. The series is tied together by a mascot called Mr. T.
The first six titles are Mr. T’s Alphabet Games, Mr. T’s Number Games, Mr. T Tells The Time, Mr. T’s Money Box, Mr. T’s Measuring Games and Mr. T’s Shape Games. These are currently available on the BBC Micro, but Spectrum versions should be ready very soon. Mr. T Tells The Time and Mr. T’s Money Box are already in the shops for the Spectrum. The games come very nicely packaged in large white video style boxes and include a detailed parent’s manual with comprehensive operating instructions and a step-by-step guide to getting the best out of the program.
Good Housekeeping Software reckon that the child should not be left isolated at the keyboard, but that the parent should join in the games, discussion and activities promoted by the games. Mr. T is also designed to act as a friendly guide enabling the child to play not against the cold, inanimate computer, but in the company of a lively and personable fellow who reacts with encouragement or slight dismay at the child’s choice.
Mr. T programs are aimed at children between the ages of three and six. The cassettes retail at £12.95, and run on a 48K Spectrum.