Computers are cool: Hip Nettwerk Records tells us so

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, December 1994

Ginger CD-ROM

Box 330- 1755 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC V6G 3B7
tel (604) 654-2929
fax (604) 654-1993

If you're over 25 or so, you probably remember the stereotype of young computer users (aka 'nerd').

Male, wears glasses, drinks Jolt cola, eats pizza, has bad skin, not much of a sex life, and would rather talk to a computer than another human.


Well, somewhere along the way, it seems to have changed.

Maybe due to the Mac, or multimedia. Or the Internet.

Somewhere along the line, it seems like computers became hip... the nerds of yesteryear became today's in-crowd.

While I'm not sure exactly when this happened, there's a lot of evidence that this major transition has, in fact, occured.

Check out WIRED Magazine... or even staid Ziff-Davis Publishing's wannabee COMPUTER LIFE. Over the summer, TIME MAGAZINE surveyed what was hip... they claimed that the new underground was Internet users.

They may be right-- cruise the World Wide Web, the coolest way to surf the Internet. It seems like every other home page is devoted to alternative music. Or is exhibiting an art show. What would have been an underground newspaper in the late '60s today is a WWW homepage.

Today art school-- tomorrow the Information SuperHighway.

Latest bit of evidence is Vancouver's long-time alternative record company-- Nettwerk. They've brought us music from the Grapes of Wrath to my 13 year old daughter's current fave, Sarah McLaughlin. Of course, they have their own WWW address:

And their latest project is to merge the audio CD with multimedia CD-ROM. After all, a full audio CD holds 60 minutes or so of music, but most albums only use a fraction of that. Rather than ship the disk with empty space, you might as well add some multimedia content, right?

First to hit the record store shelves is "Far Out" by Ginger, sort of a descendent of the now-defunct Grapes of Wrath. The first track of the audio CD is unplayable on your home stereo--- it's all computer information. (Don't try to play it at home, kids-- you won't like the results. Trust me on this). The other eleven tracks are a standard stereo CD.

Track one, however, appears as files on either a Mac or Windows PC, equipped with a standard multimedia CD-ROM player. Viewed from Windows File Manager, you get two directories... one installs a run-time of Apple's QuickTime movie player, enabling the same video clips to be used on either a Mac or under Windows.

The other directory includes a bunch of files. Double click on GINGER.EXE to get a picture of a bunch of dogs hanging out on the beach-- the cover of the CD. An instruction pops up suggesting that you single-click on the dogs' heads. Click on the house in the backgound to quit.

Depending on which dog you pick, you get one of seven 30-second sound bites from the band's previous EP release, a couple of music videos, or behind the scene footage from the making of the CD. There's other cute tricks as well, but I'm sworn to secrecy. Biographies of the band members.

Other musicians have released CD-ROMs in the past year. Peter Gabriel and once-known-as-Prince have both jumped into the multimedia market with disks that will set you back $60-80.

Nettwerk, by contrast, sees this disk as going on the shelves at record stores with computer departments, such as Vancouver's A&B Sound, and selling for just a few dollars more than standard audio CDs. And they see it as the first of a series... another, by Sarah McLaughlin, is expected to be released by early December.

I certainly wish them every success. I mean, like I'm in my mid-40s... a parent and a teacher. My daughter had to take me to the Orpheum to see Sarah McLaughlin, but I'd rather hear her music, or Ginger's, then some dinosaur re-tread from the '60s, like (dare I say) the Rolling Stones.

And I can only applaud Nettwerk's effort to give some multimedia added value to their audio product. Especially since by doing so, they prove that you and I and the rest of the computer users are cool.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review. A decade or so later, I've gotten a series of emails from  fans hoping that I could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of older software to check at eBay or at you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan