A Brief History of Time is one of the best CD-ROMs I've ever come across, no less so because it's based on Stephen Hawking's groundbreaking book of the same name. One of the few titles from Creative Labs' short-lived "Blasterware" multimedia division, ABHOT exemplifies how a clever use of multimedia elements can make a book more accessible and engaging to a casual reader. Professor Hawking's book is probably one of the least read best sellers of all time – not least because it's not easy to explain to laymen mind-boggling topics of astrophysics, such as the spacetime fabric and black holes (and as an aside, in my humble opinion, the most readable physicist of all is Richard Feynman). But with this excellent multimedia CD-ROM, anyone who wants to learn about the dawn of the universe but doesn't really want to slog through 175 weighty pages can now do so at their leisure. |
For starters, the ABHOT CD-ROM contains the full text of Hawking's book, narrated by the Professor himself. As you can expect from a multimedia CD-ROM, it's chock-full of extras, including music, photos, and dozens of animations and video clips to help clarify the esoteric subject matter. In an accessible manner, the CD-ROM traces the history of cosmological thought from Aristotle to Einstein and explains Hawking's ideas about the birth of the universe, the structure of black holes, and the nature of time. Some video clips – such as the one starring two actors as Marilyn Monroe (!) and Albert Einstein – are out of place and over-the-top, but the majority of them are very well done.
In summary, ABHOT ranks among the best reference CD-ROMs ever made, and one that makes a difficult subject matter more accessible to non-physicists. As Mikki Halpin of CD-ROM Power said, "...[just] as Hawking's book reconfigures time itself out of the linear understanding we have of it, the ROM morphs the content of the book into an intuitive, organic environment. This is as close as you can come to spending a weekend or two picking one of the greatest brains of our (or anyone else's) time, meanwhile neatly avoiding any danger of a pop quiz." Two thumbs up, and a worthy entrant into our Hall of Belated Fame.
Reviewed by: Underdogs