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At this relatively early stage of multimedia development, CD-ROM programs have two obvious advantages over works published by the traditional method (three, if you count the preservation of trees): they can quickly access pieces of information buried in enormous files, and they can wrap that information in a stimulating audio-visual package that is fun to use. Most of the discs we’ve received exploit the latter (though more than one company is planning to release the complete Official Records on CD-ROM sometime this year).

Since we believe learning about the American conflict should be fun as well as educational, we applaud the efforts of the pioneer CD-ROM producers, one of whom has offered A House Divided: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Though the disc is lighter on information than, say, American Heritage’s The Civil War, which we reviewed in our last issue, House deserves praise for its creative approach: the user “walks” through what essentially is a virtual museum, clicking on various objects to access more information.

Complete with trivia games, recordings of Civil War-era songs, and living history video clips, House is definitely fun–and it includes the unabridged text, fully searchable, of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. We just hope someone comes along to take the concept of the virtual Civil War museum to the next level.

A House Divided: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Grafica Multimedia, San Mateo, California, one disc, $49.95.


PC: MPC II level PC, Windows 3.1, 4mb RAM, 256-color monitor, speakers Macintosh: 030 Mac, System 7, 4mb RAM, 13-inch color monitorCarl Zebrowski