Guinness Multimedia Disc of Records. (database) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Margaret Bowden
The Guinness Book of Records, first published in 1955, is the world's best-selling copyrighted book. Now, with flair and a solid, well-thought-out design, the Guinness Multimedia Disc of Records brings that same popular content to your multimedia PC.
Installation is easy. The drivers for the program take up about 4MB of storage on your hard drive. The program is completely menu-and button-driven, and you're given many choices on how to navigate through the masses of information contained on the disc.
The Browse Records button lets you choose any record from "Acrobatics: Longest Inverted Flight" to "Zoos: Oldest." Many of the 3621 entries are fairly detailed. There's also the traditional Guinness inclusion of obscure knowledge among the more common facts. For example, in the "Words" category, you'll find the longest Icelandic word, Haecstarettarmalautningsmaour, with 29 Icelandic letters (transliterating to 31 in English characters) and meaning "supreme court barrister."
Using the Word Search button, you can find records related to a specific subject. You can use and, or, and not operatives to narrow the search. For example, searching for computer brings up 30 matching records. These start with a reference to "Prehistoric Reptiles: Largest chelonians," which is listed because of a mention in the article of computed weight. In this case you could narrow the search by looking for computer and machine.
You can search by category using the Topic index button, which brings up a list of 11 categories ranging from "Earth and Space" to "Sports and Games." Each of these has subcategories. "Science and Technology" provides 14 subcategories ranging from "Elements" to Space Flight." If you choose "Elements," you're given three topics: "Matter," "Subnuclear Particles," and "The 109 Elements." Each of these selections provides more information than you'd expect from a database. Under "The 109 Elements," for example, you don't simply get a periodic table, but an actual reference to such things as which elements are most common, which are the rarest, which have the highest toxicity, and so on.
Half of the fun of the paper edition is just flipping through and randomly discovering information. The Random Record Explorer button will let you do this with the disc version. There's also a Superlatives Index button, which lets you select records by superlatives such as best, worst, oldest, youngest, windiest, hottest, and widest
Select the Picture Index button to start with the same 11 categories as the Topic Index. From here you can access the 1062 images on the CD.
The Movie index button gives you a total of 37 movies. This index, to our dismay, had only four categories: "Animals and the Earth," "Human Beings," "Technology and Space," and "Transportation." We found that most of these didn't have sound - not even the entry for the howling monkey! We did like the fact that movies can be advanced frame by frame, forward or backward, to examine details, but we didn't like the lack of sound or the jerkiness of the animations that did have sound.
Although a help reference booklet isn't included with the packaging, there's extensive help on the CD itself. In most cases, though, you won't need it; the program is very intuitively designed. Most of the information here is trivial, but it's often educational and always a lot of fun.