Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 115 / DECEMBER 1989 / PAGE 86




Kids love to see their names in print, and they love fairy tales. So what could be better than combining the two and personalizing your children's favorite stories? It's easy if you have a word processor that prints form letters or an integrated package that merges databases with word processing files.

First use the word processor to write a story, leaving blanks where the child's name should go. You can also incorporate other bits of personal information, like a favorite toy, a pet's name, or a least loved food. Anytime you can personalize the story, enter a placeholder that will be filled in when you merge the word processing file with the data file.

Here's a short example:

Once upon a time, there was an elf named NAME. PRONOUN was wandering through the meadow one day, picking FAVORITECOLOR flowers and wrestling with a dragonfly named PET'SNAME. When NAME returned home, PRONOUN found that POSSESSIVEPRONOUN magical FAVORITETOY was missing. PRONOUN searched the house from top to bottom and found Jack the Gnome playing with the FAVORITETOY under the front porch. So NAME made Jack eat LEASTFAVORITEFOOD for dinner every night that week.

Once you have written the story, create the data file that will hold each child's information. Name each field for those in the story. For my example, you would need a NAME field, a PRONOUN field, a FAVORITECOLOR field, and so on.

Finally, link the two files by using placeholders in the word processing file. You can find all the details about this process in most word processing manuals under mail merge, form letters, or file merge.

Now the fun starts. Gather the kids around and ask them to tell you about themselves. Ask what their favorite colors are, what their pets' names are, and so on. Fill in the database with the appropriate responses.

To see the results, print-merge the two files. If you use colored printing paper, the children will like the stories even better.

Heidi E. H. Aycock
Chapel Hill, NC

BASIC Choices

You already have a great tool for helping your kids with practice drills—the BASIC programming language that came with your PC.

What you'll be creating is a multiple-choice-question program. With two simple changes, you can modify it for any topic. For instance, change the phrase Choose the odd one in the accompanying program listing to something appropriate to the subject matter. (If you want to work on misspelled words, change it to Choose the misspelled word.) Next, put your multiple choices in the DATA lines. Enter the correct choice number, then the five choices.

When your child comes home and has to master a subject, you can customize the program to suit the need. Spelling lists, vocabulary lists, homonym and antonym lists, and science glossaries all work well.

Find BASIC among your floppy disks or on your hard drive. From the DOS prompt, type the program name (BASIC or GWBASIC) and press RETURN. Carefully type in each of the following program lines, hitting RETURN at the end where indicated. This program is designed for IBM PCs and compatibles and will probably need to be modified to run on other computers.

10 C$(0)="C":C$(1)="Inc":CLS:
  ON ERROR GOTO 20:PRINT "Choose the odd one":
  READ A: FOR X= 1 TO 5:READ A$:PRINT X;") ";A$:
  ((A=B) +1);"Correct. Press a key.":A$ = INPUT$(1):
100 DATA 1,"House","Cat","Dog","Mouse","Horse" [RETURN]?
110 DATA 2,"Red","Soft","Orange", "Blue'V'Purple" [RETURN]

You can enter hundreds of lines of data before running out of memory. The first item in each DATA line is the correct choice number (from 1 to 5), and the next five are the entries. Increment the line number each time—the next line should be 120.

To try out your program, type RUN and hit the Return key. To save your program on disk, type SAVE "QUIZ.BAS" and press Return. To recall it later, reload BASIC, type LOAD "QUIZ.BAS", and then type RUN.

Experiment by adding extra lines of data. Now you can change the program so that your children can pick out misspelled words, nouns, adverbs, or anything else that they may be trying to learn.

Richard C. Leinecker
Winston-Salem, NC

Do you have advice that makes a better teacher out of your PC? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Send your tip, no matter how brief, to COMPUTE! Feedback, P.O. Box 5406, Greensboro, North Carolina 27403. If we publish your suggestion, we'll send you a gift.