Magazine article Information Today

CD-ROM Cheers and Jeers for 1995

Magazine article Information Today

CD-ROM Cheers and Jeers for 1995

Article excerpt

Every year in the December issue of Information Today I look back over the past 12 months to take inventory of the products, companies' performances, and innovations in CD-ROM hardware, software and marketing that most delighted and most disappointed me. Here is my 1995 list of those deserving the most cheers and those deserving the most jeers for content, novelty, pricing, and overall performance. Products and companies that received cheers or "earned" jeers last year or earlier aren't eligible again this year, even if they remained as good or as bad as before. There are always enough new candidates for cheers and jeers alike.

CHEERS! for the ...

* Best non-multimedia company performance, to National Information Services Corporation. NISC is a low-profile company among the many CD-ROM publishers of scientific-technical databases. You don't often see their ads, but NISC puts out an impressive collection of mostly unique databases, such as Consumer Reports, Water Resources Worldwide, Latin American Studies, GeoArchive, Arctic and Antarctic Regions, and Marine Oceanographic Freshwater Resources. NISC doesn't merely take a magnetic tape and make a CD-ROM database out of it. It creates many of its CD-ROM databases by combining several independent data files into a coherent unit. In a unique approach, NISC analyzes the record overlap among the component data files and makes a single composite record out of them. It eliminates the redundant elements (author name, journal name) and retains the value-added, unique information (descriptors, abstracts) from all the component records. NISC also stands out for the capabilities of its ROMWright software. It has exceptionally powerful browsing and search capabilities in the DOS arena. Beyond the usual Boolean, truncation, proximity, and positional operators, it also offers various rotated indexes, smart plural and Anglo-American variant searching, and the ability to explode a thesaurus term to include not only its narrower but--optionally--also its related and other terms, to the level of depth the user specifies. And, as icing on the cake, NISC gives away its Child Abuse and Neglect database if you buy any other NISC database.

* Best multimedia company performance, to The Voyager Company, which has been steadfastly producing innovative, intellectually stimulating, engaging, and rather provocative multimedia titles for both the Macintosh and (to an increasing but still lesser extent) the Windows platforms. The tag line of the company advertisements, "Bring your brain," aptly alludes to what makes its products so rewarding. Voyager's collection of about 50 products runs the gamut from the highbrow titles of classical music and literature appreciation (Beethoven and Beyond, American Poetry) to children's edutainment in arts and music (With Open Eyes, Making Music), to controversial sociopolitical themes (Who Built America, Amnesty International), to pop culture pieces (People: 20 Years of Pop Culture, A Hard Day's Night). Voyager has first-class content and software, and the company bravely explores new territories and technologies.

* Best professional CD-ROM database, to Aries, for the most impressive implementation of the much coveted PsycLIT database. Aries was able to compress onto a single CD-ROM 21 years of PsycLIT records, including journal article, monograph, and book chapter records. This is a feat in itself. Other implementations of PsycLIT had to deliver the database on two discs, and some had to further separate the records by document type, sometimes necessitating the re-execution of a search. In addition, Aries has the most intuitive interface and a natural-language search option that is way ahead of other such software. I raved about its KnowledgeFinder software before in IT when it was applied to MEDLINE, and I am as much impressed now as I was then.

* Best consumer database, to Books That Work, for the 1996 edition of Popular Mechanics Car Buyers' Guide. …

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