- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2000

Even though they haven't roamed the earth for millions of years, dinosaurs continue to exist within the confines of museums, books, movies, video games and Web sites. The Discovery Channel recently broadcast a fantastic three-hour program developed by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) that introduced a new generation of viewers to the mighty behemoths.
Tracking the history of the dinosaur using computer-generated images, the series averaged 10.7 million American viewers during its showing. An accompanying cyber-stop at both the Discovery Channel and BBC sites not only reinforces concepts presented in the program, but also serves as an interactive memorial to the earth's largest creatures.

Walking With Dinosaurs

Site address: www.bbc.co.uk/dinosaurs

Creator:

For 77 years, the BBC has been a pioneer in developing radio and television features that entertain and educate millions of viewers and listeners around the world.

Creator quotable:

"Everyone is interested in dinosaurs, from the school playground to the research lab," says Richard Williams, manager of the science, nature and weather areas for BBC Online. "Our challenge was to create a site that not only complemented and went further than the television series, but one that could appeal to the hugely diverse audience. We needed to convey the sense of awe and excitement that dinosaurs evoke while avoiding the traps of sensationalism that would patronize a large section of users."

Word from the Webwise:

The CD-ROM once was considered the innovation most likely to bring an incredible array of educational material to a person's computer. The Internet has quickly mirrored CD-ROM technology by offering incredible learning opportunities to anyone interested.
The Walking With Dinosaurs Web site presents the compelling world of the Mesozoic monsters through the hottest Internet technologies. A speedy Internet connection, the latest browser and the most current plug-ins, including Shockwave, Java, Quicktime and Real Player are needed to fully explore this strange world.
The site's opening page sweats through a humid green backdrop, taking junior paleontologists to a time when lush forests grew unchecked and monstrous carnivores and herbivores roamed the lands. Being a dinosaur devotee, I had a difficult time deciding where to start my exploration among the wide range of colorful icons offering everything from a study of the life of a diplodocus to various extinction theories.
BBC Online has set up a handy top menu bar that explores six time periods, beginning 220 million years ago with the Late Triassic period and ending 65 million years ago with the Late Cretaceous period. As a visitor rolls the mouse over each section, the section lights up, featuring a dinosaur from that time. For example, the stegosaurus is found under the Late Jurassic period.
Enter a section, pull up a comfortable chair and prepare to be impressed. On the lead page for each time period, viewers will find the major creatures involved and what the world was like at that time, with text written by leading experts, video clips re-creating the period, an animated global map showing continent formations, clickable words leading to definitions and plenty of colorful photos.
Every dinosaur ever unearthed, from allosaurus to utahraptor, also can be found within the Fact File. This encyclopedia creates a dossier of each beast's life, including photos, a sound bite, an animated movie, a 3-D view and numerous interesting tidbits. For example, I never knew the rhamphorhynchus hunted by dragging its beak through the water.
Other sections to explore include a games-and-quizzes area filled with challenges such as picture scrambles, an FAQ (frequently asked questions) area answering the most common queries about dinosaurs, and articles by leading paleontologists.

Ease of use:

Danger Will Robinson, even though Walking With Dinosaurs worked almost perfectly on my G3 Macintosh (some of the games were troublesome), I suggest only the most net-savvy attempt its exploration. Remember to get the latest plug-ins and latest browser versions loaded correctly. I had a 56K modem that was downloading at about 38K, and I was still able to thoroughly enjoy the site's multimedia presentations.

Family activity:

The site offers a way to send a really neat cyber-postcard to anyone with a World Wide Web connection. First find the e-postcard icons located throughout the site. Choose one of six creatures, add a personal message and click on send. The recipient gets a link to a cool photo and a working Web page leading back to the Walking With Dinosaurs site.

Don't miss:

I have always loved the ankylosaurus, so imagine my excitement at witnessing a Tyrannosaurus rex taking on this once-living tank in the interactive feature "Death of a Dynasty," found under the Dinosaur Worlds section.
Through an incredible audio and visual smorgasbord, viewers roam on screen looking for hot spots. Find all of them to completely reveal the action. Users will first find a female T-rex calling a ferocious male. While the T-rex takes care of its young, viewers are introduced to beasts such as a torosaurus that becomes a T-rex snack and a didelphodon that successfully steals a T-rex egg. The T-rex ultimately perishes under the clublike tail of the ankylosaurus.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

The site will keep any child 10 years old and older mesmerized with its incredible pages. Parents should make sure their computers are completely configured to make the experience entertaining and not frustrating. They also might want to keep younger children away because of some images of scary carnivores taking care of their dietary requirements.

Information grade: A++

Have a cool site about science or health for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (joseph@twtmail.com).

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