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Spelling Mistakes

Thousands of children who own a Tiger Power Pack PC may have learned a bit more than their parents intended in giving them the $90 laptop educational computer.

The device contains 35 learning activities in mathematics, vocabulary, and grammar. Thirty-four of those most likely could be deemed enjoyable, and arguably educational. But one has more than a few parents in an uproar.

It is an 80,000-word spell-checker. And it is an exceedingly thorough spell-checker, as Pat and Jill Gillian, of Martinsburg, W.Va., discovered when their 9-year-old daughter attempted to spell a word beginning with "f" and was supplied with a list of alternatives that included a slang term the Gillians didn't intend their daughter to learn.

Jamie Roth, a spokeswoman for the computer's manufacturer, Tiger Electronics Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill., said many parents have returned the faulty machines--which were mistakenly programmed with an adult spelling dictionary--and will be shipped a child-safe version this month.

But, with a customer loyalty most companies would envy, "many of the parents who found out that we were shipping a new product decided to go ahead and keep the unit and have their children use the other 34 activities until the new ones become available," Ms. Roth said.

Guarded Memories

Some experts say technologies from computers to television are figuratively stealing away childhood. But President Clinton recently bemoaned that, thanks to technology, one of his most precious--and most public--childhood memories may soon no longer be uniquely his.

"You all have seen that picture of me shaking hands with President Kennedy?" he recently asked members of an information-infrastructure advisory panel. "Well, after seeing 'Forrest Gump,' I think that pretty soon anybody who wants to can have a picture of themselves shaking hands with President Kennedy," he told the group, referring to footage shown during his 1992 presidential campaign of himself as a young man exchanging greetings with John F. Kennedy at the White House.

In the movie "Forrest Gump," special-effects software allowed filmmakers to make it appear as if actor Tom Hanks not only meets, but has conversations with, various presidents and other celebrities, some of them long dead.

--Peter West

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