You Can Have the Whole World at Your Fingertips; CD-ROM REVIEW

Article excerpt

I first came across National Geographic as a spotty youth when you had the choice of reading a month old copy in the school library - with a collection of teacher's initials on the cover - or in the barbers' shop amid Titbits and Weekend.

Here the copies were about two years old and you rarely had time to read an article before your turn was called.

I never understood why you could never find the same copy the next time you visited, so I learned lots of half things about our world.

My hairdresser still has the magazine among the car mags, although these days I manage to have my own copy of the magazine delivered on the day it comes out so I now know how it all ends.

National Geographic has become an institution since it first appeared in 1888. It has funded endless projects and expeditions and given millions an insight into our world and the people and animals who share it with us.

Full sets of the magazine are collectors items needing substantial shelf space.

Alternatively you can buy the whole 108 years of issues - 1,245 magazines - up to the end of 1996 in a 30 CD-ROM set. The retail price is pounds 199, or if you buy one of the decade sets, you can upgrade the other 98 years for pounds 149. The decademigh t make a change from the birthday year video as a gift.

So what do you get for your money? Well, there is a flashy video introduction from Kodak, who sponsor the project, and three CDs to cover the decade.

The format is simple. Thumbnails of the magazine covers year by year and you can call up an index from the cover, or an index month by month for the year.

You can go through a magazine, cover to cover with a double page on each screen. The size is too small to read much more than the headline although the pictures are clear and good quality. You can zoom in for a clearer view, although reading a full artic le is a bit fiddly.

The answer is to print out individual pages or complete articles and, as you see the original pages on screen, that is what you print with the quality of output depending upon the resolution of your printer. …