may be just
the thing for your office, but make sure you know what you want
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #332 March 5, 1996 High Tech
majority of computers
now purchased in Canada include multimedia options--CD-ROM players
and sound. In columns past, I've suggested that multimedia computers
also had a valid role to play in your business.
the task of installing big software packages like Microsoft
Office. And it opens up possibilities of accessing large data
on disc such as postal codes, or all the phone books in Canada. But
you'll find buying a CD-ROM--whether as an add-on package or built
into a new computer--a confusing process. You'll be faced with a
of decisions. For instance:
The first CD-ROMs
ran at the same speed as the CD player in your audio system, which
is too slow for video and multimedia. A couple of years ago, double
speed (or 2x) was released: the drive ran twice as fast, slowing down
to 1x speed if you inserted an audio CD (yes, you can play
standard music discs in your computer CD-ROM).
is standard, and many models feature 6x and even 8x drives.
the performance increase isn't always as great as you'd hope, for
a couple of reasons.
software is still optimized for double-speed drives. Running that
software, your faster drive won't be able to make use of its potential.
As well, CD-ROM drives need fast throughput (the amount of information
they can shovel from the disc to your computer), but they also need
peppy seek times (the time it takes them to find the information you're
model may do a great job showing computer video on screen, but if
it has a slow seek time, it will take just as long to find the phone
number you're looking for as a slower-speed model.
You may want to access more than one CD disc at a time. For this,
650 megs of information may not be enough. For instance, to
save hard-drive space, maybe you decide to run a program like Corel
Draw right from the CD disc instead of from your hard drive. (It will
be slower that way, but if you don't use it frequently, that may be
okay.) If you do that, however, you have a problem: you can't access
the huge clip-art library that Corel includes on a second disc, because
the program disc is hogging your drive.
want to have several CD-based databases on hand at all times so you
can easily cross-check between those phone directory address and postal
code CD-ROM listings. Or you're a writer wanting access to a
reference set like Microsoft Office (thesaurus, atlas, book of
and more), and a CD-ROM encyclopedia. And you'd like to play an audio
CD at the same time.
been common for home stereos, and in the Asian market for showing
videos: now, they're catching on as computer accessories. Both NEC
and Nakamichi, for instance, offer an external 7-disc unit,
and both have recently marketed similar 4-disc internal models (CDN$399
list) that fit in the same space as a standard built-in CD-ROM drive.
"ROM" in CD-ROM stands for "read-only memory": unlike a floppy disk
or your computer's hard drive, you can read the data on a CD disc,
but you can't write to it using your standard CD-ROM drive. You can
buy units that allow you to create your own CD discs, which seems a
great way to distribute large quantities of data, or even back up your
hard drives. It's a nice idea, but not yet ready for the mass market.
Recordable drive prices are still hovering over CDN$1,000, and the
technology still seems too awkward for general use. Back in 1990, Tandy
promised a $500 writable CD, any day now. Maybe next year?
of needing several discs, how about fitting more data onto one disc?
The various industries--computer, audio, video and more--have recently
agreed on a single high-density format, known as DVD or SD-ROM. These
will hold up to 4 gigabytes of data--eight times as much as today's
discs. You'll need to buy new hardware to use the new discs, but the
new drives will continue to read today's discs.
be something your business should have today, even though it looks
like the market is moving in several different, incompatible directions
at once. Maybe in a couple of years, you'll be able to buy a
multi-disc, recordable DVD drive for $200, but you can't get that
now, so assess your needs carefully.