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Compton's Inaugurates Multi-Media Encyclopedia on Disc

Magazine article Information Today

Compton's Inaugurates Multi-Media Encyclopedia on Disc

Article excerpt

Compton's Inaugurates Multi-media Encyclopedia on Disc

The library reference center may soon be in for a face lift, as Britannica Software, Inc. on September 20th introduced Compton's MultiMedia Encyclopedia, a compact disc that incorporates the entire 26 volumes of the 1989 print reference with sound, pictures, and animation sequences. "Never before have all these features been included in one product." Stanley D. Frank, Britannica Software president, said under the lights and cameras of the Wednesday morning press briefing. "No one can predict how history will view this revolution, but - when groping for a comparison - one recalls Gutenberg's use of movable type more than 500 years ago."

While comparisons to Gutenberg are an overstatement, the product demonstration was indeed impressive. Besides reading the text, a student could, for example, hear a Bach concerto, view a picture of decorated Faberge' eggs, or see how the human joints interconnect as the skeleton moves. Britannica Software staff demonstrated how the user could reference glossary terms defined in context (with the word pronounced by the computer) or look up any word in Webster's Intermediate Dictionary, which is included on disc. Response time for all options was surprisingly quick.

The product, which runs on IBM PS/2 Model 30 and 286 and compatible computers, utilizes a mouse and Macintosh-like icons for users to select functions. The single CD-ROM contains 9 million words, 15,000 photos, 800 maps, 1,500 glossary words, 20 minutes of speeches, 20 minutes of music, and 45 animation sequences.

Paths to knowledge

Compton's MultiMedia Encyclopedia is divided into eight "pathways" or entry points:

* Title Finder. Here, the researcher can click on a letter, then select any entry in the alphabetical listing for that letter. End users may cut and paste text from articles to load into a word processor or simply print a screen.

* Topic Tree. The entire encyclopedia is also accessible according to 19 broad categories, which include Arts, Technology, Government, Leisure, and Literature. To find information on musical instruments, one could select Arts, then the Music subdivision, and finally the entry "instruments."

* Picture Explorer. The user may select this pathway to view illustrations by typing in a particular topic, making a selection from a caption list, or taking a random tour of illustrations. For example, one could search for "tiger," select a picture, and then jump to a corresponding article.

* U.S. History Timeline. Under this icon, Compton's arranges significant American events according to date. Students can select events of interest and, for instance, read about Robert Kennedy's assassination or listen to an audio of the 1969 moon landing or a rendition of a passage from Thomas Paine's Common Sense.

* World Atlas. This option enables users to rotate a globe in any direction, explore a country up close (up to seven levels of magnification), and click on a country name to read the encyclopedia entry.

* Science Feature Articles. Britannica Software queried science teachers across the country about what were the most-requested scientific subjects. The result is this grouping of 20 articles.

* Idea Search. In this pathway, researchers may type in a subject and view a list of related articles ranked by relevancy. …

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