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Stickball, anyone?

Growing up in the 1950s, my baseball hero was Duke Snider.

A baseball card with the Brooklyn Dodger center fielder's picture on it was the prize of my collection. No way would I trade anyone for it. I wanted to be like him in every way I could imagine.

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When playing stickball, I knew the entire Dodger lineup. I would "be" each Brooklyn player and fancy my way through a nine inning game between the Yankees and the Dodgers.

Though I didn't know it then, such play was the equivalent of Kansas loam for the imagination - deep and rich.

Fast forward to today. Yes, there are still baseball cards. Kids still play stickball. But young boys and girls are on the cusp of a sea change, with their imaginations fed by computer-generated images and interactive games.

Whether it's a sports figure, a movie actor, or a famous historical personage, the opportunity exists, or soon will, to visually and auditorily interact with elaborately nuanced persons, places, and events on a home console.

Just how much of this interactivity will be the player's imagination and how much will be a step-by-step programmed repertoire, little more than a video karaoke, is yet to be seen.

But as our cover story (right) states, rather than watch James Bond, soon we "can be him."

One example of what's to come is how designing dino bones seems more popular than finding them. The new Immersion Studios, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, opening next Tuesday (see story page 17), takes computer simulation and interactivity to a new level of engaged learning.

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I hope these new electronic playing fields of the imagination course as deep as my stickball days.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor