...And Everything in Its Place

By Johnson, Harriett; Johnson, Richard | Computers in Libraries, March 1990 | Go to article overview

...And Everything in Its Place


Johnson, Harriett, Johnson, Richard, Computers in Libraries


...And Everything in Its Place

The Macintosh[R] started out small. When introduced in 1984, it left only a diminutive footprint on the desktop. That was good, but viewers were aghast at its small screen (9-inch diagonal) until they saw the clarity of the image. The machine had a mere 64 kilobytes of ROM and 128 kilobytes of RAM. Its floppy disks could store only 400 kilobytes of data. Using the original MacWrite[R] word processor, you had to limit each document to a maximum of 8.5 pages of single-spaced text.

How the Mac has grown! Now ROM and RAM are enlarged and enhanced. Standard floppy disks hold 800 kilobytes, and high-density floppies hold 1.4 megabytes. Hard disks galore take care of storage needs, and monitors come in black and white and color. Instead of that little screen you may gaze at a full-size page display. The Macintosh is a pace-setter for other computers, and it still leads the pack with its user-friendly interface and excellent graphics capabilities.

CD-ROM

Along with other computers the Mac has gone from shoe boxes of floppies to hard disks. But you may have trouble finding a needed document on your own array of floppies, or possibly you may have buried it deep inside a folder on your hard disk. Wouldn't it be nice to have a big closet to store things in, a closet with a place for everything and everything in its place?

The CD-ROM is such a closet. CD-ROM is the acronym for compact disc read-only memory. One 4.7-inch CD-ROM stores up to 656 megabytes of data. This represents the equivalent of 270,000 pages of text, fourteen 40-megabyte hard disks, or 704 800-kilobyte floppy disks. Quite a few shoe boxes!

Data on a CD-ROM is in essence prepackaged; it cannot be modified. Thus it is as different from standard hard or floppy computer disks, as is the optical technology used for its production. The literature at times distinguishes between the storage devices by the spelling: "disc" for a CD-ROM or product of optical technology and "disk" for a standard computer disk.

A CD-ROM is like a book in being full of "printed" information. It differs from a book in that its "paper" is impervious to written annotations or markings of a highlighter pen. Perhaps "written in stone" is a better analogy. Actually, a CD-ROM is more like a set of books; several projects have been undertaken to publish on one CD-ROM the contents of a full encyclopedia (Academic American Encylopedia) or a series of books (e.g., the Microsoft[R] Bookshelf). Although you cannot change the information on a CD-ROM, you can copy it to a floppy or hard disk and modify it there.

In the five years since the general introduction of CD-ROMs, they have established themselves as popular tools in many libraries. The literature about CD-ROMs burgeons.(1) CD-ROMs are useful for storage of relatively large bibliographic databases -- for example, several years of the abstracting and indexing information in the ERIC system. They are also handy for storage of large amounts of statistical information -- for example, census data.(2)

CD-ROM for the Mac

Apple Computer has introduced its own CD-ROM drive for the Macintosh and Apple II series called the AppleCD SC[TM] (see Figure 1). The letters "SC" are short for SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), a port on the computer allowing a standardized and fast exchange of information. Layne Nordgren and Nancy Kendall have prepared a lengthy description of this Apple product.(3) Other manufacturers have also introduced CD-ROM drives for use with the Mac.

The AppleCD SC is set up for CD-ROM discs that use the ISO 9660/High Sierra file system, a standardized way of finding information on CD-ROMs. Computer software is needed for the Macintosh to manipulate the data. Currently many CD-ROM products are used primarily on other kinds of computers; however, several publishers (e.g., Bowker, SilverPlatter) have also made their CD-ROM products accessible on the Mac. …

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