A previous column saying "The Amiga is dead" provoked great reaction, both positive and negative. The complaints demanded a retraction because Amigas are still selling, are still useful for lots of things -- especially multimedia, where they shine -- and new models are coming soon. The thanks said I hit the nail on the head about Commodore's lack of planning, marketing, or development of new models. (Even many of the critics agreed with these problems.)
My conclusions are that if you want desktop video and multimedia the Amiga still has a unique place (and can be improved with Great Valley Products and NewTek additions), that the Amiga 500 can be a competitive home computer, but that for most of us buying an Amiga is like buying a car that demands you drive on the left from a company with a bad reputation: not a good idea.
These are reviews of shareware programs for IBM and compatible computers. The programs are available from bulletin boards and computer clubs. Users try them, then pay a fee to register if they decide to use them regularly.
In the six months since banning TV for our kids, I've had to come up with suitable educational programs for three hungry minds, ages 6, 9 and 11. This batch of educational programs stands out for its appeal to very young kids (my 6-year-old daughter had a grand time). It also stands out for its beautiful color animation. Teachers and parents will like the prices, too. Once you've tried these programs on your IBM or compatible computers, registration for each costs $12 or less. All require EGA or VGA color monitor and hard disk.
ANIMATED ALPHABET -- Using either the keyboard or mouse, your star pupil can match the correct letter to a picture and be rewarded with some creative animation. Correct answers get encouraging words through your PC's speaker.
ANIMATED SHAPES -- Shapes and colors are matched. Then as your child makes more correct matches, a picture develops at the bottom of the screen. When it's completed, the picture becomes animated.
ANIMATED MATH -- For pre-schoolers and first graders, this animated program teaches the basics of addition, subtraction and counting. There also are connect-the-dot games, an animated piano and a mouse game.
THE ANIMATED MEMORY GAME -- Beginning with simple matches, your pupil will graduate to more complicated ones. Each time a match is made, the reward is more animated pictures. The game works with tiles and requires your pupil to remember where she saw the last match. My 9-year-old son spends hours with this one.
ANIMATED WORDS -- This spelling program for children from preschool through first grade helps children match words with pictures. When they get five matches correct, their reward is an animated picture.
Author Tom Guthery has done an outstanding job making computers accessible to young children. Even the mouse cursor looks like a mouse. If you can't find these programs on bulletin boards, I'll send you all seven for $15.
UPDATE -- Vacation Planner, the program that helps you plan the best route for car trips across the United States, has been updated. A map maker utility comes with the program. Look for version 4.7b on bulletin boards.
WINDOWS CORNER -- Wall Street, The Bottom Line has come to Windows and takes full advantage of the Windows interface. This program helps investors track stock purchases, dividends and the like. If you're into high finance and you have Windows 3.0 or 3.1, you'll like how easy it is to chart your fortune.
(For copies of the children's programs, send $15 for Vacation Planner $4; and Wall Street $7, plus tax, to Shareware, P.O. Box 7037, Long Beach, Calif. 90807. Phone (310) 595-6870. Fax (310) 426-0110. A catalog on a disk costs $2. Please specify 5.25- or 3.5-inch disks.)