Multidisciplinary Speakers Present Multimedia CD-ROM at Nationwide Conference in Boston

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Multidisciplinary Speakers Present Multimedia CD-ROM at Nationwide Conference in Boston

A single CD-ROM disc, now on the market for $1,495, contains the entire U. S. yellow pages, 9.2 million listings, compiled from 4,800 phone books.

Another disc, played at medical conventions, uses digitized sound and color graphics to test doctors' awareness of household allergens.

An interactive video program, created with the help of CD-ROM, is taking leaders of the communications world on a "river voyage" at MIT.

These are just a few of the advanced CD-ROM applications, many with multimedia features, that were shown and discussed at a seminar held in Boston, May 30 to June 2.

Sponsored by BIS CAP International, a NYNEX subsidiary, The 1990 Digital Multimedia Conference drew about 100 participants from throughout the nation, led by an electric team of 22 speakers.

Talking about CD-ROM were an assistant professor of media technology, a former writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and recipients of advanced degrees in education and business administration.

In the booming CD-ROM marketplace, multimedia applications are a minor factor today, but their significance is bound to soar, suggested one speaker, Kurt Mueller, president of Dataware Technologies Inc., Cambridge, MA.

The installed base of CD-ROM drives tripled between 1988 and 1989, to a figure of 450,000, he noted. Still, though, he added, about half the data on CD-ROM discs is bibliographic. The rest consist mostly of full text, black-and-white graphics, and numbers.

"The need is now emerging for sound bytes and color graphics," stated Mueller, whose firm provides CD-ROM software and services to libraries, businesses, and government operations. Presentations by other speakers proved that these needs, along with requirements for animation and video, are starting to be met. A strong turnout of third party vendors indicated that more multimedia is just around the CD-ROM corner.

On an AT-compatible PC with CD-ROM drive, Mueller showed the audience three applications: the "national yellow pages," a series of U.S. patent discs, and a computerized auto parts catalog. Each integrates a bibliographic database with full text and black-and-white graphics.

On the yellow pages disc, the user can look up any U.S. business in a matter of seconds. Through a special capability, permitting a search for multiple criterion, businesses can be isolated by category and location.

To demonstrate, Mueller punched in a code that called up all 32,000 computer dealers in the nation. From there, he found all computer dealers in the Boston suburb of Brookline, MA.

Dataware has developed several programs for the U.S. Patent Office, noted the company president, who holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in computer science from Northwestern.

One set of discs blends a database of structured information with compressed images of actual patents. The structured information includes patent numbers, as well as the names of inventors and examiners. The actual patents average 12 to 15 pages in length. Another set of discs gives basic facts of all U.S. patents ever granted: 5.2 million of them, stretching back to the 1800s.

The auto parts catalog, listing 300,000 items, is up and running at 600 Ford Motor Company truck dealerships throughout the U.S., Mueller said.

Like several other speakers, Mueller stressed the desirability of an inter-disciplinary approach to software development. For Dataware, that means obtaining input from several areas of the client organization, including MIS, "new technology" specialists, and editorial staff.

Another backer of an interdisciplinary strategy is Peter Black, president of Xiphias, one of the first vendors to supply multimedia CD-ROM programs for Apple Macs.

"You can safely expect that CD-ROM will attract a whole bunch of people, and they aren't all going to be engineers," said Black, reached after the conference at company headquarters in Los Angeles. …