Reviewed by Les Ellingham



Issue 13

Jan/Feb 85

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48k disk/cassette .... written by M. White ....

Alphabet is a pre-reading program for the average four to five year old very similar to Atari's My First Alphabet but written in this country and therefore without any problems of `Americanisms'. The program was originally accepted by Atari to be released in a line of home produced educational software but following the takeover, Atari decided not to publish it and it is now sold direct by the author.

The program presents a series of pictures for the child with a caption such as `a is for apple' and the letters of the alphabet underneath for the child to identify the correct letter with which the word begins or ends. Generally the program is very good. There are one or two not so good points but more of those later. Firstly let's look at the good points.

The manual is excellent. It has been written in conjunction with a primary school teacher and, apart from explaining the program in detail, it contains a guide for you as a parent on how to use the program in conjunction with your child to get the most benefit. It makes it clear that learning with a computer requires active participation from both child and parent and proper encouragement whether the answers given are right or wrong. The program itself contains a picture for each letter of the alphabet with a corresponding word and a series of options for choosing a letter in that word. The order suggested by the authors is First letter of the word highlighted, last letter highlighted, either letter highlighted (at random), first letter normal (not distinguished from the rest of the word), last letter normal, either letter normal, first letter missing, last letter missing. Following this progression it becomes more and more difficult for the child but he/she should be able to tackle each level having learnt the last Further options allow the pictures to be presented alphabetically or at random. Prior to playing, the game can be put in an autorun mode to enable the child to get used to the program.

When a picture is shown, the caption beneath will state, for example, 'j is for jam' and the child must use the joystick to move an arrow above the letters of the alphabet to choose the letter j. If he is correct the background of the screen flashes and a rabbit on the left hand side will be redrawn closer to a carrot. Each correct answer will move the rabbit nearer until he reaches the carrot when a nursery rhyme will be played. If the letter chosen is wrong, the program will give the correct answer and move the pointer to the correct letter.

The actual teaching side of the program has been well thought out and the pictures are very colourful. Graphics 10 has been used for extra colours but this does tend to make many of the pictures somewhat blocky. What of the other niggles? The sound could, and should, be a lot better. As each picture is drawn it is accompanied by a monotonous single rising or falling tone that aggravates, at least to adults, after two or three times. The rabbit is redrawn each time, slowly, whereas player missile graphics could have been used to add more interest and better movement. Getting out of a picture if the wrong one is chosen is by holding the option key but it is far too slow to react. Finally the packaging is pretty basic to say the least. Whilst there is no need to go to Atari extremes of selling more box than program, I feel that better presentation would add greatly to peoples acceptance of the program.

The educational value for the child cannot be faulted and it is on this that the program should finally be judged. Personally I prefer My First Alphabet but Alphabet is half the price and it is written in England. It is also available on cassette whilst My First Alphabet is only on disk.