not a matter
of choosing one over the other; the Internet and CD-ROMs work well
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #353 July 30, 1996 High Tech Office column
ago, a BIV reader e-mailed me a question (sorry, I've managed to lose
your name). She was wondering whether the explosive growth of the
Internet spelled the end of CD-ROM-based multimedia.
then, we've seen
that it's not going to be a case of one or the other. Rather, the
Internet and CD-ROMs can coexist, and in fact, when used together,
can compensate for each other's weaknesses.
can hold a lot
of information--650 megs or so on the current varieties--with the
promise of multiple gigabytes (that's billions of bytes of information)
on the next-generation DVD (Digital Video Discs). They're also cheap
to mass-produce; cheap enough that they've started to turn up as free
giveaways with $7 magazines. That makes them an ideal medium to
big multimedia files--video clips that take up megs of space per
And the upcoming DVD format is designed to hold a standard Hollywood
movie on a single, three-and-a-half-inch disc.
'ROM' in CD-ROM
stands for 'Read Only Memory,' meaning that once created, a CD disc
is static, so it can't be updated. That makes this technology less
than ideal for information that changes rapidly.
Internet, on the
other hand, is dynamic. With an estimated 53 million Web pages, it's
changing daily. But it's unorganized, and information is often hard
to find. As well, most of us are forced to access the Net by relatively
slow connections-modems over phone lines. Despite improvements in
so-called "streaming" technologies, which try to let users access
video and sound in "real time," too often, it may take 20 minutes
or more to receive a two-minute video clip--hardly an efficient way
to get multimedia.
you combine the mass storage of CD-ROM with the up-to-the-minute
of CD-ROM reference
tools are trying to get the best of both worlds. Compton's Multimedia
Encyclopedia, for example, is widely available on CD-ROM. The
new versions add links to on-line services such as America-On-Line
and CompuServe. Free updates to the encyclopedia are just a
click on a menu away.
Microsoft built links to its own Microsoft
into its CD-ROM encyclopedia, Encarta, and into several other reference
discs, such as its movie database, Cinemania. However, it's recently
been downplaying MSN--the free updates are now available over the
Internet, at www.microsoft.com. In the case of the Compton's
and Microsoft products, when you add the updates to your hard drive,
they integrate invisibly into the original CD-ROM product, keeping your
information up to date.
the opposite tack. Instead of using on-line information to update
a static reference CD, they've begun to use CDs to add multimedia
to their on-line service. CompuServe Magazine, a low-cost,
monthly, multimedia CD-ROM disc, is available as an option to the
service's on-line members. Each issue features a theme ("Vacations,"
for example), which is explored using computer-based multimedia and
video. The articles typically include links for more information,
to the on-line service. It does a good job of providing the graphics,
sounds, and video that are difficult to access on-line, while
readers to spend additional time using CompuServe's core service,
where it makes the bulk of its profits.
One of the
of the Internet, for many users, is access to huge amounts of free
(and legal) software-demos of commercial products, and software
as freeware or shareware. Many Internet sites are dedicated to
virtual libraries of such files, all easily downloaded. But there's
so much available that users may want to spend literally hours on-line
collecting it. And quality is variable--it's disappointing to spend
an hour downloading a large program, only to discover that it's not
really anything you want.
the more popular
on-line sites are now offering CD-ROM discs with their entire software
collection. For example, the popular Windows 95 site (www.win95.com)
offers a disc with its file library for about $50, as long as you're
willing to give your credit card number on-line. (Remember, while
questions of Internet security are real, the actual danger is probably
less than giving your credit card to a gas station attendant, who
then takes it out of your sight to make up the slip.) That way,
addicts can get those 9-meg game demos without tying up the phone
for hours, while reserving on-line time for checking out the newest
additions to the collection.
storage with the ever-changing on-line universe, you can get the
of both technologies.