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Date: Sat, 18 Jun 1994 23:30:28 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Steve K. Grant" <sgrant@eis.calstate.edu>
Subject: We need _both_ mmedia _&_ text-only CD-ROMs
To: lm_net@suvm.syr.edu

To anyone interested:
   Robin Gardella posted a request for personal evaluations of CD-ROM
encyclopedias other than Information Finder, specifying that ("for now")
she(he?) was only considering non-multimedia, since the encyclopedia is
made available over a network.  This prompted me to consider the following:
   While hardware and software advances are now making multimedia over a
network possible, my impression is that--since it's still pretty
cutting-edge technology--it is not yet exactly "plug-'n'-play" easy to
implement successfully, and it requires hardware most of us don't have
and can't afford to go out and buy (100 megabit-per-second Ethernet
cards, for one...though I may well be wrong about this.)  And while
multimedia over the Internet is _possible_ (Mosaic supports sound and
photos, I know...I'm not sure about video), my understanding is that one
has to access the net over either a LAN connected directly to an Internet
node (no modems in the link), or over an ISDN-type phone line (which
requires not only the line--which phone companies are scrambling to
provide, usually at a price, though Pac Bell in So. California will
install one to a school for free with one year free use; after that, you
pay.)  And multimedia is threatening to overload the bandwidth the
Internet currently makes available.  But I digress (as usual.)
   It seems to me that providers of CD-ROM-based information sources
likely to be used in a school library media center setting for research
should consider making those sources available in _both_ multimedia _and_
text-and-graphics-only formats.  Even if we're fortunate enough to have
workstations for patrons which are all '386 or '486-class (or
multimedia-capable Macs)--and a CD-ROM server ("tower") which allows
multiple simultaneous access of CDs, chances are we don't have (and won't
have for some time) network hardware which can handle delivering
full-motion video and sound to those workstations simultaneously.
   Developing a separate text-and-graphics-only version of a program
would undoubtedly incur additional development costs, which would drive
up the price of the program.  But as more and more LMCs (not to mention
public and college/university libraries) acquire CD-ROM servers and
network their CD-ROM-based information sources, perhaps there will be
sufficient demand for alternative, "non-multimedia" versions of things
like _Time Compact Almanac_ and electronic encyclopedias which contain
the most up-to-date information.
   One more thing I'd like to see from CD-ROM programs that _do_ contain
multimedia elements is the ability to save photo, sound clip, and video
files to a diskette in some file format that would allow import into
popular multimedia-presentation preparation applications.  The National
Geographic Picture Atlas of the World developers thought of this, in that
the user can save a photo (and they're _beautiful_, Geographic-quality
photos) or map to diskette.  Only problem is, it saves them in a file
format that is only importable into IBM's Linkway Live.  If your school
makes Linkway Live available to students (say, in a lab, or even on the
same machine they use to explore Picture Atlas itself), then they're in
business.  But what if they're using different hardware or software to
create their presentation (either at home or at school)?
   What's needed is a file format standard for all the major multimedia
presentation preparation programs for photo graphics, sound, and video
files.  I know there are already a number of formats for each, and that
many presentation programs include import capabilities for many of them,
so the problem is probably not so much on the end of those presentation
preparation program developers, but on the end of our CD-ROM research
information program developers.  A number of times I've had a student
viewing/hearing a multimedia "item" relevant to his/her in-process
report/project ask me, "Is there any way I can save this to use it in my
report?"  In every case (at least at my site), the answer is effectively
   CD-ROM publishers...Are you listening?

        Steve Grant, Library Media Teacher
        La Jolla High School (619) 454-3081 x228

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