Wild Blue Yonder, Episode One: 50 Years of G’s and Jets

"Wild Blue Yonder," a new informational CD-ROM from the producers of A&E's "Brute Force: The History of Weapons at War," brings the look and feel of those military documentary programs from the "educational" cable channels to a Macintosh or Windows platform. Although the designers have clearly tried to bring forth a product that has a broad appeal, this title probably won't penetrate much beyond the aircraft buffs who watch those cable documentaries.

“Wild Blue Yonder,” a new informational CD-ROM from the producers of A&E’s “Brute Force: The History of Weapons at War,” brings the look and feel of those military documentary programs from the “educational” cable channels to a Macintosh or Windows platform. Although the designers have clearly tried to bring forth a product that has a broad appeal, this title probably won’t penetrate much beyond the aircraft buffs who watch those cable documentaries.

“Yonder” offers an informative, well-paced browse through 20 different aircraft, grouped into four historical eras:”Jet Age” (covering the first emergence of jet-powered military aircraft), “Vietnam,””Desert Storm” and “Tomorrow.”

After clicking on a plane to select it for closer scrutiny, the user can choose from several detailed categories of information.

The “Stories” category starts off with a minute or so of narrated documentary video footage, followed by a browse through photos and text detailing the plane’s history. A “Scrapbook” shows photos of the planes in action, concluding with audio clips of pilot interviews.

Perhaps most interesting is the category called “Black Box,” which tells about the plane’s individual peculiarities and flight handling quirks, and shows pictures of crashes and other mishaps.

The designers have clearly made an effort to go beyond mere aircraft fetishism and evoke something of the times when these planes flew. The well-selected background music and sound effects work reasonably well to help re-create the atmosphere of each era.

Technically speaking, “Yonder” is very well executed. The user interface is clean and easy to navigate, with good response time moving between segments. The only possible quibble with the interface is the near total absence of a clearly marked exit command.

“Wild Blue Yonder” tries hard to be a CD-ROM coffee-table book, and as such is an enjoyable and interesting read. But even for hardcore aircraft buffs, this title probably won’t provide more than a few days of diversion before the feeling sets in that you’ve seen it all before … on cable. –Michael Fisher

Wild Blue Yonder, Episode One: 50 Years of G's and Jets

Production: Spectrum Holobyte/Digital Ranch; "Wild Blue Yonder, Episode One: 50 years of Gs and Jets,"$ 59.00; Macintosh and Windows.

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