Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 115 / DECEMBER 1989 / PAGE 108


Time doesn't mean much to kids. Tomorrow and Christmas are unbearably far away, and five minutes ago is ancient history. But, as grownups have discovered, time does matter. Schedules must be kept and deadlines must be met. Luckily, Caveman Clockwork is here to help your kids bridge the gap. Designed for children ages 4-8, Caveman Clockwork teaches and reinforces the concepts and skills children need to tell and manage time.

Following an introductory round of Big Ben-like beeps, you get an opening screen dominated by an animated dinosaur, complete with winking eyes and a wagging tail. The animation isn't fancy, but it's charming. There's something undeniably appealing about the simple movements, something every kid who sees them will love.

The dinosaur announces, via a cartoon-style balloon that covers most of its tummy, the options available, which fall into two categories. One set introduces basic time concepts, while the other offers activities that let children practice those concepts they've learned. Each option is described by words only—there are no graphics or other visual hints to help kids who can't yet read.

Children will have hours of fun learning to tell time with Caveman Clockwork.

Selecting an item brings up a colorful prehistoric panorama, complete with a smoking volcano, a bright yellow sun, and a road paved with red brick. In the middle sits an enormous analog clock (remember those?) flanked by a pair of cavepeople who wear, among other things, well-worn socks. Socks? These guys look more like vagrants. But my six-year-old thinks they're delightful, and that's good enough for me.

These cave folks are, it seems, still wrestling with the basic concepts. "What time is it?" one asks. The other, confused by the very notion, replies, "What is time?"

"Look, they don't know about time either!" one child observed delightedly. His conclusion: If it's OK for the cavepeople to be confused, then it's OK for modern kids to be confused, too.

Tutorial options cover all sorts of basic time-telling concepts, including hour and minute hands and how the clock face looks at different times of day. Children are encouraged to interact with the analog clock by entering a time (in 12-hour hh:mm format), which is then displayed on the analog clock face. Caveman Clockwork also shows how time passes, speeding up the onscreen clock's hands.

After the kids have mastered the basics, Caveman Clockwork introduces a genius caveman (in high-top sneakers yet) who has finally figured out what time is all about. However, his newfound knowledge hasn't gone to his head, and he's apparently made it his life's work to help others figure out time concepts too.

He spreads his knowledge the old-fashioned way: by asking questions. What time does the clock show? What time was it 15 minutes ago? What time will it be 30 minutes from now? Kids enter answers in hh:mm format; correct answers are acknowledged by a volcanic eruption. After three wrong answers, the correct time is revealed.

At the end of each session, you get a summary of how things went. A report shows time spent in tutorials, time spent practicing skills, and total time. You're also told how many exercises were completed and how many of your answers were right or wrong.

Caveman Clockwork is a well-prepared tutor. However, it's also an impersonal one. Names are important to children, but this program can't be personalized to call your child by name.

The program is also fairly verbose. Blocks of onscreen text accompany many activities, and prereaders may be lost unless Mom or Dad sits down to help out.

But that's no problem. You'll enjoy sitting down with your kids for a visit with these well-dressed cave folks. Just be sure when you're having all that fun that you don't lose track of the time.


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