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Wings: Midway to Hiroshima, Wings: Korea to Vietnam, Wings: Saigon to Persian Gulf, Discovery Communications, Bethesda, Md., 1995, $49.95 each.

System Requirements: IBM & compatibles (version reviewed): 486sx or higher processor, double-speed CD-ROM drive, 256 color VGA display, eight megabytes of RAM, Windows 3.1 or higher, Sound Blaster compatible audio card; Macintosh: Performa, Centris and Quadra families, double-speed CD-ROM drive, System 7.0 or above, eight megabytes of RAM, color monitor.

Picking up where the Wings Over Europe CD-ROM left off (see review in the July 1996 Aviation History, P. 64), the latest installments in the software collection from the Discovery Channel bring users from World War II to the contemporary jet age. Midway to Hiroshima, Korea to Vietnam, and Saigon to Persian Gulf are three digital encyclopedias (sold separately) of all matters related to military aviation from 1942 to 1996.

The discs are all produced by Maris Multimedia and share a consistent interface. Each is essentially an electronic encyclopedia of aircraft data wrapped
in a set of multimedia activities. The activities include visits to virtual air bases, animated war reports and maps, and flight simulations.

The artwork, photography and sound are excellent and well integrated in each title. Reference CD-ROMs often provide shallow material, but these titles contain fairly detailed databases of information on aircraft and their ordnance. In addition, users can use the search feature to quickly pinpoint the information they need.

The major shortcoming of these encyclopedias, though, is that the text appears in tiny green lettering, and could be more legible. It is also unfortunate that, despite using the graphical Windows and Macintosh interfaces, the text and viewing areas cannot be resized for readability, nor can the text be captured and pasted into other documents.

The other features on each disc are a mixed flight bag. Some, such as the animated movies of bombing runs or vocally narrated war reports, are nice overviews of their subjects. Others, such as the virtual air bases and 3-D models of featured aircraft, are very attractive but leave one yearning for a bit more detail. One undocumented feature is worthy of note–all of the fine photographs used in the software are also accessible on the disc so users can view and use them independently. Maris also included a utility that will turn some of the photos into background art for your computer’s wallpaper. Sadly, the few flight simulations offered on each disc are forgettable. Built using bland graphics and simplified flight models, they are barely of novelty value even to novices, and can’t hold an afterburner to the competitors. Wings Over Europe used a superior approach, incorporating a simulation sample built by a commercial simulation developer.

Collectively, the three Wings CD-ROMs are great fun, and their professional presentation makes them suitable for all audiences. They bring aviation history to life, from Midway to the oil smoked skies of the Persian Gulf.

Bernard Dy