Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 147 / DECEMBER 1992 / PAGE S1

What are multimedia applications? (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications)
by David English

Multimedia this. Multimedia that. We hear the M word a lot these days.

Before computers, multimedia meant a slide-projector presentation with music and narration--usually out-of-sync. Not exactly a revolutionary technology.

During the early years of personal computers, multimedia meant a disk-based program that included some combination of music, animation, video, digitized speech, sound effects, and photo-realistic graphics. By this loose definition, most real innovation came from game developers who continually pushed the sound and graphics envelope.

More recently, with the introduction of the CD-ROM-based MPC (Multimedia PC) standard on the PC, multimedia has come to mean just about any CD-ROM product. Why CD-ROM? PC applications with large amounts of speech or other sampled sound can require as much as 100-500 megabytes of disk space. Large reference works, even when compressed, can require equal space. A single CD-ROM can hold up to 680MB of data and doesn't cost a lot to produce, so it's currently the best delivery vehicle for multimedia applications.

Which areas of multimedia applications are likely to be hot in 1993? Look for more CD-ROM versions of popular productivity software. Current titles include Lotus 1-2-3 for Windows with Multimedia SmartHelp, Release 1.1; MicrosoftWord for Windows & Bookshelf, Multimedia Edition; Microsoft Works, Multimedia Edition: and Corel Draw 3.0. Corel even includes the CD-ROM version free with the disk-based version so you'll be ready when you purchase your CD-ROM drive.

Another big growth area is educational software. The CD-ROM's storage capacity allows spoken instructions to be included in the program. These would include the CD-ROM versions of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing: Version 2.0 for Multimedia and The Chessmaster 3000, both from The Software Toolworks.

You can still expect to see some shovelware. which occurs when a software company simply transfers a popular program to CD-ROM without adding much that's new. Sierra's Stellar 7, while a great game, is the same on both the disk and CD-ROM versions. The same company's King's Quest V and Space Quest IV are dramatically better on CD-ROM with digitized voices and sound effects. When CD-ROM first became popular, software companies rushed to get something out on disc. Now that they've learned their way around the medium, shovelware is less common.

What do you need to run a CD-ROM application? You'll certainly need a CD-ROM drive, and a sound card if the CD-ROM uses sound. For MPC applications, you can use Windows 3.0 with the multimedia extensions (this still ships with some MPC machines and upgrade kits) or Windows 3.1 with the appropriate Windows drivers.

The predicted flood of outstanding CD-ROM applications is finally here. Expect even better applications to follow in 1993.