Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

CD-ROM Mastering: What Are Your Publishing Options?

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

CD-ROM Mastering: What Are Your Publishing Options?

Article excerpt

CD-ROM technology is here and growing strong. Many parties are interested in producing CD-ROMs, but for newcomers, there is a great deal of confusion in choosing methods for production. There is technical terminology to be learned and decisions to be made.

The topics discussed below are presented in order to acclimate someone interested in producing one or more CD-ROMs. The issues covered include equipment, manufacturing cost, a reaction and decision strategy, and example decision-support tools. In addition, the guides and support tools are designed to be flexible so as not to become quickly dated.

* A Bit of Background

Emerging as a popular software-delivery medium is the Compact Disc-Read Only Memory (CD-ROM). A single CD-ROM can hold up to 650 megabytes (MB) of data - enough space to store about 150,000 pages of text.[1] This is particularly attractive to software development firms who distribute large packages, such as multimedia programs that incorporate high-resolution graphics, audio and/or digital video.

Although CD-ROM technology has been around since the late 1980s, it is just now developing a mass market - largely due to the drop in drive prices. It is now affordable for a much broader consumer population. In 1993, the number of CD-ROM drives sold with home computers exceeded 2 million.[2] According to DataQuest, the number of CD-ROM drives sold worldwide in 1993 was over 4.8 million.[3]

Along with the expanding market, software companies wanting to publish their programs on CD-ROM enjoy another timely advantage. The ability to record single CD-ROMs in-house has become financially feasible for those who don't wish to mass produce discs. In 1991, the cost of CD-ROM recording systems (a CD-ROM Recorder records data onto a recordable compact disc) was nearly 40,000. Today, more technologically advanced systems can be had for under $6,000.[2] Recordable discs now cost from $10 to $30 each, depending on where you shop and how many you buy. And the prices of both the media and CD-Recorders are expected to continue to drop.

In addition, CD-R (CD-ROM Recorder) drives will soon be widely available in the standard half-height size, easily installed in a computer's internal drive bay just like a floppy drive. Pinnacle Micro's RCD 202 single-speed drive, for example, is already available in this size.[4] And by the end of 1994, Sony was expected to debut a half-height double-speed reader/writer; OEM price is below $600.[2] (A single-speed drive has a data-transfer rate of 150K per second; double-speed drives move information twice as fast; quad-speed drives are four times quicker.)

For large-scale duplication, it is still more economical to use a service bureau. They create a glass master for as little as $450 and replicas for $1-2 a piece.[5] Occasionally a 100-disc deal for $1,000 to $1,500 can be found for those somewhere-in-between single presses and large volume releases.

* Logistical Issues

Many logistical issues must be considered before beginning production as they will help determine what production path to embark on. These issues include target platforms, disc formats and data preparation. Each is considered below.

Target Platform

It is important to consider the type(s) of platform(s) to include as the target for the CD-ROM. Translated, this means what type of computer will be able to use the disc. The three most common are IBM, Macintosh and UNIX.

If the intent is to support more than one platform with a single CD-ROM, then it becomes necessary to consider partitioning and size issues. CD-ROMs that can run on more than one computer are physically partitioned - Mac content in one area and MPC/Windows content in another, for example. Obviously, this poses a dilemma for programs larger than half of the disc.

But even if a program is small and size is not an issue, a decision still must be made. All partitions are not equal on a CD; one will be faster than the other because the geographic location of software on the disc affects retrieval time. …

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