Compact Disk-Interactive: An Industry Is Born

Article excerpt

Compact Disc-Interactive (CD-I) has been heralded for months. At the end of October of last year, the first U.S. CD-I publishing and developers' conference took place. Held in Los Angeles, Calif., CD-I One was sponsored by Matsushita Electric Industrial, Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Microwave Systems Corp., Philips Consumer Electronics, Philips Interactive Media of America and Sony Corp.

* Much More Than Nintendo

CD-I players are like CD-ROM drives without the computer; interactive compact discs display 600MB of digital audio and video on a standard television screen. Since it is initially targeted towards home users, many have compared CD-I to a next-generation Nintendo system. That would be a serious underestimation of CD-I's capabilities.

The differences are many. CD-I titles include not only the expected interactive games but numerous educational discs--parents can feel good knowing that their children are spending time touring the Smithsonian, learning about stamps or listening to Luciano Pavarotti. Also, CD-I players are the next step in home audio equipment; replace an existing audio CD player with a CD-I unit, connect it to both the TV and stereo, and you have a multi-purpose player that runs all standard audio compact discs as well as CD-I titles.

For instructors, this is a compact multimedia presentatin device that is compatible with equipment most schools already have--televisions. The controlling device is similar in design to a standard television remote control, with the addition of a mini joystick at the top that moves a cursor to an active, onscreen button.

Possible applications for this technology include a CD-I resource station located in the media center or library that would allow students to retrieve information or do self-paced learning exercises. In addition, teachers can wheel a TV into the classrooms, to give small groups of students the opportunity to take part in supplementary exercises.

Major Players

Philips Consumer Electronics Co., located in Knoxville, Tenn., offers the CD-I 601 and 602 players. The self-contained CD-I 601 displays digital audio, text, video, graphics and animation in real time. It weighs approximately 15.4 pounds, sports 1MB of RAM, and plays CD-I and audio CDs. Four levels of audio quality, each in stereo or mono, provide up to 16 hours of sound.

A mouse is supplied with the player; wired inputs for joysticks, graphic tablets, touchscreens or CD-I keyboards are also accepted. Users can plug in a set of headphones; expansion slots anticipate memory increases or network communication.

The 602 model includes a 3.5" floppy disk drive. Information relative to the application can be stored on a floppy diskette or accessed from the CD-I disc. Also, printers and communication devices can be configured automatically using the "load" and "setting menu" functions in conjunction with the appropriate floppy disk.

Sony Corp. in San Jose, Calif., is introducing their CD-I Interactive Compact Disc Viewer. This palm-sized, portable unit boasts a 16-bit microprocessor and 1MB of internal memory. A built-in, 4" LCD display and speaker let users view CD-I titles at any location, while an AV jack can connect directly into home entertainment systems.

This unit is suited for administrators and others giving restrictions in the field, or for displaying interactive materials to a large class.

The Play List

Taking into consideration that this technology is in its infancy, a limited number of discs are currently available--one catalog listed roughly 40 titles available at the time of the conference. …