Students, present and past, may have mixed emotions about...

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December 30, 1991|By New York Times News Service

Students, present and past, may have mixed emotions about Monarch Notes, Simon & Schuster's little guides to literary works commonly assigned in high school and college.

On the one hand, the notes may be associated with gaining a deeper understanding of Yeats or Austen. On the other, students may recall frantic nights of cramming or, uh, borrowing material for a report on a book not actually read.

Now, the full text of all the Monarch Notes -- more than 200 of them -- has been put on a CD-ROM disk. The disk is very easy to use. With a standard DOS computer, you slip it into the CD-ROM drive, change to the drive (usually by typing "D:") and type "MON." A screen appears that offers two choices: notes by literary period or notes by author.

As might be expected in a series written by many authors over four decades or more, the little books vary. The guide to Homer is just a bibliography; the one on Freud is a history of the reactions to his theories.

The version of Monarch Notes we tried is intended for computers running DOS 3.1 or later, with 640 kilobytes of memory, a VGA card for the pictures and, preferably, a hard disk. The CD-ROM drive must meet the ISO-9660 standard, and you must have Microsoft Extensions 2.0 or later. The same disk works with most Macintoshes with at least a megabyte of memory and, of course, a CD-ROM drive. The disk is $99 from the Bureau of Electronic Publishing, 141 New Road, Parsippany, N.J. 07054; phone (800) 828-4766.

Shrinkware. If you're not crazy already, PC Therapist III may drive you there. This is the program that won the Loebner Prize Competition in Boston last month, fooling five out of 10 judges into thinking they were talking to another human through their computer terminals, a hurdle known as the Turing Test.

The judges were innocent of computer sophistication; the more knowledgeable will not be deluded for long, although the Therapist can be a lot of fun.

We began by typing, "I am hungry all the time." The Therapist responded with three sentences, one of which was, "Is it because you are hungry all the time that you came to see me?"

Us: "Isn't this a deli?"

Computer: "How does that make you feel?"

Us: "It makes me feel hungry."

Computer: "I clearly remember you said you are hungry all the time."

"Dialogue" with the Therapist is interspersed with aphorisms, wisecracks and irrelevancies, just like a real, if somewhat disjointed, conversation.

PC Therapist III is $59.95, plus $5 for shipping and handling and, for New York residents, sales tax. It is a product of Thinking Software, 46-16 65th Place, Woodside, N.Y. 11377.

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