Compton's MultiMedia Encyclopedia, Windows Edition. (data base) (Software Review) (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
It's a real encyclopedia. The text of all 26 volumes and many of the pictures are here, crowded into a tiny CD-ROM along with things you won't find in an ordinary printed encyclopedia. This miracle of modern technology is called Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia (Compton's NewMedia. 2320 Camino Vida Roble. Carlsbad, California 92009; 619-929-2500; $695 for the Windows version, $595 for the DOS version).
Here are the stats: 9 million words in 32,000 articles; 15,000 images, maps. and graphs; 60 minutes of sound, music, and speech; 5,000 charts and diagrams; and the Merriam-Webster Intermediate Dictionary.
Since these aren't printed books, new ways of finding things are both possible and necessary. For example, the History button invokes a gorgeous horizontal-scrolling time line showing U.S. history since Columbus. A ruler across the top measures years, and a bottom ruler shows presidential administrations. In between are boxes briefly describing events. Click on any box to read the associated article. Try that with a printed encyclopedia!
The Topic Tree button displays a list of general topics. This is especially well suited for those times when you don't know exactly which article you want. Click on any topic to open a window containing more specific topics and article titles. Continue until you find the article that suits your needs.
The Search button pulls up a word and phrase searching utility. Type the target word or phrase, and Search provides a list of articles that include it. You'll be surprised at the number of articles containing your search target. For instance, looking up Babe Ruth gives Babe Ruth's article first, followed by Baseball, Saduharu Oh, and others. Unfortunately, you'll also get everything that includes the words Ruth or Babe. The recommended way to narrow the Boolean search, using quotes around the phrase, results in the same list--it doesn't work as promised.
Next is Finder. Nothing could be easier--it's simply a list of the articles by title. A Science button lists 20 of the most interesting science articles, ones with lots of multimedia elements. The World Atlas button keys you into a collection of maps.
Compton's isn't a highly detailed, in-depth encyclopedia; it's simple enough for grade-school children and can help students in high school, but for thorough research, you'll need to conduct your studies elsewhere. As a family resource, however, Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia is an ideal reference.
As good as it is, however, I ought to warn you that it isn't quite the magnificent collection of multimedia elements I had conjured up in my mind. I expected more sound and video. (In fact, there's no video at all, and only 45 animations. Some of the animations are so minor as to be inconsequential.)
I had hoped to watch videos of Kennedy's inaugural speech (there is a sound clip), a shuttle launch, and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. Alas, it wasn't to be (probably because it wouldn't all fit on a single CD-ROM).
If you have a student in the family or any other reason to invest in an encyclopedia, Compton's is an excellent choice. Not only is it easier to store, but it gives you information and ways to get at that information that you can't duplicate with a bulky set of books.