One of the best history CD-ROMs ever made, Who Built America? is also one of the best CD-ROMs based on a book you'll ever find. Billed as "the definitive social history of the United States", this masterpiece offers a whole new way to experience American history, using a clever combination of text and multimedia elements including film and audio clips. The program is based on the book of the same name, which in turn was the culmination of the American Social History Project, the City University of New York's efforts to "revitalize interest in history by challenging the traditional ways that people learn about the past". The subject matter: the history of the United States from the Centennial celebration of 1876 to the "Great War" of 1914. A tumultous period in US history, to say the least. |
Calling this CD-ROM an "interactive textbook" is inappropriate, because it's much more than that. Instead of presenting merely the digital version of the original book, the authors allow everyone to interpret history in the best way possible: through literally thousands of original source documents, including audio, video, and text. Imagine not just reading about the invention of cinema, the aftermath of slavery, or the birth of the women's movement, but seeing The Great Train Robbery in its entirety, watching suffragists march up Fifth Avenue, or even playing the world's first crossword puzzle. Voyager successfully combines superb scholarship with a rare opportunity to move "behind the printed page", as it were, to interpret history on our own. It's also commendable that this CD (as well as the book it was based on) focuses more on the lives of people who hardly make headlines: the immigrants, blue collar workers, the minorities, and other underprivileged groups. So even those of us who are familiar with the period will likely find some new and different perspectives in this title.
In addition to the fully indexed and searchable text of the original book, Who Built America? includes over 45 minutes of archive footage, dozens of recordings from the period, and numerous short games and quizzes to test your concentration. Like other Voyager titles, it also includes extensive research tools, including customized search, index, and clipboard capabilities that allow you to copy and paste into your own document. Too bad CUNY's second CD in this series, covering the period from 1914 to the "dawn of the Atomic Age" in 1946, is far less interesting than this first masterful adaptation. Highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in history – and a proud entrant into our Hall of Belated Fame.
Reviewed by: Underdogs