Presentation and projection. (presentation hardware)
by Robert Bixby
Last month, I opened with a brief discussion of presentation software. This month, I'd like to cover a little bit of presentation hardware before turning to a look an an interesting entry-level graphics program.
WatchIT! TV has received some attention over the past couple of issues. I've had the opportunity to use it, and my observation is that it might be a good product for entertainment, particularly if you have cable service or rooftop antenna access in your computer room, but that for presentations and desktop publishing, it's not very useful. The quality of a broadcast television picture is poor when compared to VGA graphics. And pictures captured electronically from a videotape or off the air will not be of a high enough quality for publishing use (images from these sources have to be fed to the board in RF mode--there's no composite input). For the same price as the WatchIT! TV unit ($299), Circuit City has been advertising a 25-inch color television. What would you pay for a 25-inch VGA monitor? I liked the idea of WatchIT! TV, but while it might serve for pure entertainment, it won't be of much use in desktop publishing.
Recently, I've been hearing from several companies that make translucent LCDs for use in conjunction with overhead projectors for presentations. The idea isn't new, but there's a lot of competition in the area, and some of the hardware is exciting, though it's all fairly pricey. For picture quality, I still think a VGA projection monitor would be preferable for a large group and an oversize monitor would be preferable for a small group.
A VGA projection monitor can provide a display about as good as a single projector's. A translucent LCD screen with an overhead projector delivers an image about as good as the overhead projectors you remember from school--grainy and washed out. I suspect that the difference is that a VGA projection monitor has three light sources converging on a single screen while an overhead projector has just one light source. In many presentation situations with a captive audience school classrooms, for example), a grainy picture is not a drawback.
One translucent LCD maker is nVIEW (860 Omni Boulevard, Newport News, Virginia 23606; 800-736-8439). Its Spectramini screen costs a mere $2,795. It's passive matrix and displays only 512 true colors. Also offered by nVIEW are the nSIGHT and Luminator self-contained projectors. The nSIGHT provides passive matrix LCD projection in 16 shades of gray for $2,495, and the Luminator offers an active matrix LCD with 262,000 true colors, multiple input, and audio for $9,995.
If you're into software publishing, you might be interested to know that CD-ROM publishing has jumped onto the desktop. Philips offers the CDD521 CD-ROM recorder for a list price of $5,995 ($7,995 with required software). Recordable CD-ROMs cost $40 each (with a minimum of ten per order). That may seem like a lot of money, but it's in line with the cost of a Macintosh and LaserWriter in the mid 1980s, when desktop publishing fell within the reach of the individual computer user. While the machine is designed for archiving and premastering work and takes at least four hours to fill up a 690MB CD, the capability is there for anyone to use. According to Philips, most customers are lawyers, doctors, and accountants, who use the machine to make copies of legal and financial records. Unlike disk files, documents stored on a CD-ROM can't be altered or overwritten, which makes a CD-ROM a compact yet secure storage medium. To find out more about the CDD521, call Philips at (800) 722-6224.
Arts & Letters Graphics Editor has a new little brother: Scenario. It's the perfect way to get started in computer graphics. All of the tools are highly simplified and highly intuitive. For example, there's a grid that can be displayed on the screen, but the program lacks snap. The menus are simplified versions of the Arts & Letters interface. The program comes with a small collection of the clip art that made Computer Support (Scenario's maker) famous, including landscapes, animals, and airplanes. And best of all, it's the first step on an upgrade path that includes Graphics Editor. But most people (and kids in particular) will find everything they need in Scenario.