Electron User


Author: Rog Frost
Publisher: Letts
Machine: BBC/Electron

Published in Electron User 3.04

This chemistry package follows the standard format for Letts' revision programs. You get two cassettes crammed full of programs, along with a small booklet explaining how the software can be used - all in a neat library case.

As usual there are ten programs. The first deals with atomic structure and bonding and is a Cloze activity. This means aspiring O-level or CSE chemists must complete a piece of text by typing in the missing words.

They can choose whether to have only a few of the chosen words missing or the whole lot. If they get stuck, pressing X enables them to see all of the text. Activities like this are not only considered educationally sound, they should also be of real benefit to a revising pupil.


Program two moves on to the centre pillar of inorganic chemistry, the periodic table. Students are expected to enter various elements on to a blank table.

Options include entering chemical symbols, atomic numbers or electron structures. The idea is good, but the presentation could have been improved. Nevertheless it is a useful revision program.

Formulae and equations come next. This is another very important topic and any fairly friendly help from a micro is a good thing. This program considers various reactions and you have to balance the equation.


Alternatively, a list of chemicals is given and you decide if they are reactants or products. The equation for the reaction is then given and you must balance it. There follows a program called deductions. Here you are presented with a series of clues as to the identity of a substance.

Some clues are mathematical and calculator, pencil and paper will be needed. If you can't get the substance within five guesses you are told what it is.

The last program on tape one is concerned with electrolysis. With a choice of molten electrolytes or solutions, you must identify the ions present and to which electrode they move. The ion equation must then be completed. Tape two begins with two related programs on apparatus. In the first of these you must put together the equipment needed to prepare the gas of your choice.

This is done by selecting the correct pieces from a collection and swapping them around. This is very fast, smooth and fun. When completed, all other bits of apparatus are cleared from the screen and then you label your diagram and complete the equation for preparing the gas.

The second program gives you a wrong diagram. You identify the fault and label it.

The third program, acids, bases and salts, returns to the Cloze idea. There are four pages of text to complete. Then in a separate section you must decide whether a reaction goes in the direction shown. You are also asked a few questions about it.

Pupils actually get marked on this section which is surely helpful when revising.

The third section introduces the concept of molarity and then asks you to predict titration results. It's a little complicated.

The package ends with two programs on organic chemistry. The first is a series of Cloze procedures, enlivened with diagrams to illustrate the principles involved.

Working through this program certainly reminded me of the organic chemistry I used to know. The second program requires identification of isomers and homologues. I found this the weakest program on the tapes. There were just too many CHs on the screen for me.

The instructions suggest that this program is to test your powers of observation. Mine obviously are not good enough. This is without doubt what it says - a revision package. Don't expect it to teach you if you know absolutely no chemistry, because you will end up very confused.

Despite the large amount of material here, the price of £11.50 seems a bit steep. It is, however, fit for its purpose and pupils taking chemistry at 16+ levels could find it useful.

Rog Frost

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