CD-ROM Review: "Voyage in Egypt Multimedia CD"

Submitted to the Egyptologists' Electronic Forum (EEF).

'Voyage in Egypt Multimedia CD' - Scala EMME 1994/5
"Return to Ancient Egypt on this journey through Time and space, history and geography"

This interactive multimedia CD would be useful as support to a textbook of Egyptian history and for providing visual references of sites with which you may be unfamiliar. Of course it can only skim the surface but it looks to me like a serious attempt to present Ancient Egypt in an accessible manner. The information presented is AFAIK accurate although an Egyptologist might think it doesn't give enough detail. It offers good visuals, a narrative in places from a Vincent Price soundalike and of course, background music.

There is a good introductory movie sequence, borrowed from a section on Edfu. Click to interrupt this and you come to the opening screen offering four choices - History, Usage & Custom, Gallery and Voyage.

The History section is an horizontal time bar showing the main phases of Egyptian civilisation (4000 BCE to 1953). It deals mainly with the dynastic period with the developments of other ANE races superimposed for comparison. The chart allows horizontal panning along the time line to view any section. Clicking on any period brings up a text or photo screen giving relevant details. There are hyperlinks to other parts of the program, including a glossary.

The Usage & Custom section subdivides into 8 sections: decorative- & figurative arts, architecture, Science & technology, war, Nature, daily life, ships & navigation. These, in turn, subdivide into subjects, which have one or more screen pages describing them. Coverage is decidedly patchy; the section on stoneworking has 6 screen pages of good information and an animation; the Calendar section has 3 vague sentences, which entirely fail to touch upon the wonder and complexity of the Egyptian achievement. Some entries have good animated sequences illustrating the narrative e.g. erecting an obelisk. Hyperlinks abound.

The Gallery offers a choice of Glossary, Explorers, Famous People and Divinities. Very brief descriptions are provided and the choice of entries is highly selective. Explorers, for example, has entries for Amelineau (without comment on his methodology and ethics) and Somers Clarke (who?) but misses out Quibell & Green, Emery, Reisner et al. Glossary entries are brief but seemingly accurate.

The Voyage is the best bit. An opening screen shows a diagram of the Nile delta with a small inset map of the Nile, which you can use to vertically pan its length. Important sites are located; Alexandria, Heliopolis, Cairo, Giza, Saqqara, Fayum, Beni Hassan, Tel El Amarna, Dendera, Karnak, Luxor, Medinet Habu, VoK, Edfu, Philae & Abu Simbel.
Clicking on the site produces a small window with an audio comment icon below. Running the audio comment generates a sequence of still photographs within the window. By clicking on the window itself you are taken to visit the site, via a larger window with text, photographs, illustrations and thumbnails which can be expanded. Photograph quality is good. Much use is made of David Roberts' paintings and there are some good b/w drawings of tomb paintings etc. Coverage is somewhat uneven with 25 screens dedicated to Beni Hassan c.f. 10 for Tel el Amarna or 11 for Karnak.

A few pages have embedded animations; others have movie sequences with sound narrative. These run in a small window, which cannot be resized. The animations are excellent; movies are variable but tend to be grainy and high contrast. Generally the pages with movies are marked with a movie icon although not always; animations tend not to be marked so finding them is a bit like playing an adventure game - click on any interesting object. Pyramid building at Giza warrants 10 seconds of animation; the Tutankhamun display at Cairo museum gets a movie over 4 minutes long. An excellent virtual-Edfu-temple allows you to explore in any direction by clicking arrows on the window border.
The movie icon shows the locations with movies on the map itself. Clicking on the map icon produces nothing but frustration - you have to visit the site to see the movies.

Min. architecture to run this CD includes 386 (33 MHz) or better, Win 3.1 or better, 4 Mb RAM, 3Mb hard disk space, 1 x CD ROM, Audio card.
Size on screen depends on resolution. On a 17" monitor at 800 x 600 resolution, the main program runs a reasonable 250 x 180-mm, with the small windows for movies etc. at 70 x 55 mm approx. Lower resolutions don't provide enough detail on movies; at higher resolutions size becomes a serious problem - at 1280 x 1024, the sizes fall to 200 x135 and 45 x 35 mm respectively. You really need to run 16-bit colour.

Plus points
Good photos. Accurate, if brief, descriptions. Animations and movies. Easy to use hyperlinks to other sections and back again. Will run on basic PC

Negative aspects
Doesn't make use of full size of screen. Movies are not great. Need to experiment to find embedded movie and animation triggers. Background music can become irritating. Poor installation and help facilities

For a newcomer to Egyptology, particularly as support to a good textbook - it is not that easy to understand the history chronologically otherwise - 8/10
For someone with a background knowledge of the subject 7/10
For an experienced Egyptologist it still has entertainment value 4/10

I purchased this a couple of years ago at a price of about GBP 35 (UK), as far as I recall.
Contacts (from the CD Jacket): E.M.M.E, Paris Tel: (33) 1 45 61 98 80; E.M.M.E, UK Tel:01923 240 050; E.M.M.E, US Tel: (203) 869 5981

Chris Spencer
December 12, 1998

[Review appeared earlier in EEF NEWS (28)]

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