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A classic MS-DOS PC program for VGA/EGA 2D color graphic design, with the rather exclusive theme of creating different scenes involving dinosaurs and their supposed contemporaries. Part of the arguably still-ongoing "dinosaur craze" of the early 1990s.

Dinosaur Designer came on one floppy disk, which contained a very "Print Shop"-like program that allowed the user to manipulate pre-drawn graphics and typed text on a series of selected backgrounds. The backgrounds were "dinosaur"-themed in the commercial sense of The Land Before Time: a volcanic crater, a thick jungle of ferns, a high mountain peak, an ocean view (which may or may not have been the giant ocean covering both American continents during the Mesozoic Era. They were very cartoonish but convincing and pleasing to the eye of your average adolescent youngster. These backgrounds were notably devoid of animal life, which is where both the "Dinosaur" and "Designer" aspects came into play.

The graphics sets consisted mainly of individual, small dinosaurs (compsognathus, baby tyrannosaurs, nests of eggs and the like), the disassembled body parts of larger dinosaurs (stegosaurs, sauropods, carnosaurs), and cycad plants and other various props that could be pasted, rotated, and arranged in order to create scenes that were either paleontologically accurate or uproariously absurd. One could create a threatening allosaur, its legs bounding towards Jurassic prey, a heartwarming scene of an apatosaur feeding its just-hatched young while wearing a baseball cap, or the imitative but classic "three pterosaurs playing gin rummy in midair around the rim of a volcano"). The use of advanced cartoon speech bubble technology and a PC keyboard allowed the pterandons, allosaurs, or apatosaurs to exclaim, "I hate Mondays!", "C'est tout bien", "Happy Birthday Mommy!" or "Die, capitalist running dog!" with little difficulty.

As the "gin rummy" scene suggests, many of the props were humorous anachronisms. Despite the simple difference of 65 million years, primitive cavemen were also present to enjoy the fun of the dinosaurs in this program, riding their docile backs or bashing predators with clubs of wood. Modern-day inventions such as boom boxes, bicycles, and cans of cola allowed for the emasculation of extinct giants into non-threatening creatures of absurd mundanity. Backgrounds included a caveman house that allowed for domestic, "sit-com" stylings. In fact, a group of files included graphics with "humanoid" dinosaurs that looked totally rad in '80s sunglasses, letter-jackets, backwards hats, and the like. It appealed to the young, hip crowd, it is supposed, although the author enjoyed tormenting them with larger and wilder dinosaurs that had more basis in paleontological fact.

This high wit could only be matched by the obvious alternative that was presented by disparate dinosaur limbs, torsos, and heads, combined with the young human imagination: rearranging these parts into misshapen creations that could never have survived the harsh rigors of Darwinist natural selection. An apatosaur with a cerotopsian head (frills and horns) that could never have been supported by such a long neck and non-reinforced vertabrae; a flying predator with a tyrannosaur's head and the wingspread of a pterosaur which terrorized the skies; a beast with a fat, spined torso and two heads which fed, the scene would have one believe, on ice cream cones which grew from a squat early conifer.

The most useful feature of this program was its ability to print dot-matrix representations of saved or just-created scenes using any PC-compatible printer. Different options allowed for different sizes, which were achieved by printing sections of each scene onto pieces of paper in sequence that could then be assembled using glue-stick or transparent tape for display on the wall of the creator's bedroom. Of course, they came out black-and-white instead of their stirring original color, but a box of crayons and an hour allowed for the reimagining of the work in vivid detail.

Overall, this piece of software was a very successful attempt at pitching to the young market the idea of commanding and controlling the beasts of their dreams and nightmares. It is a classic not to be overlooked.

"Dinosaur Designer" is not to be confused with the later 3D design program of the same name by Viewpoint Labs, used in paleontological studies of fossils.

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