New MPC CD-ROM works are being published at an accelerating rate, and it would be impossible to give an accurate estimate of how many titles are now available, or to effectively characterise the complete range of subjects covered in these works. However, for illustrative purposes, I will describe here a small selection of current published materials. I also provide approximate prices (including VAT, in IR£) - but in assessing these, note carefully that a single CD-ROM has an information capacity comparable to perhaps 50-100 conventional books!
Encarta is comparable to a 29 volume printed encyclopedia, with over 26,000 articles, several hours of sound clips (including even examples of Irish), 106 video clips, and over 7,800 still pictures; a recent reviewer described Encarta as "undoubtedly the glossiest, most well presented encyclopedia available on computer" (Encarta 1994, David Brake, Personal Computer World, February 1994, p. 464).
CD-ROM's are quickly appearing containing the complete textual works of one or more authors, often augmented with photographic and/or audio background material. In the case of authors whose works are out of copyright these can be very inexpensive. The CD-ROM format thus offers an extremely cost-effective way of equipping a school library with a wide range of classic literature, in a form that is easier to access and much more durable than conventional print. Examples which are already available include Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and the Bronte sisters. A Mark Twain CD-ROM published recently (priced at about £35) is a particularly good example of this genre, including full length texts, music, animations, moving pictures, and recordings.
This is aimed at the study of the language in a grammar based environment. It is interactive, so that the pupil's voice can be recorded and compared to that of the native speaker.
This provides, on one CD-ROM, the complete text of The Daily Telegraph for 1992, and includes sophisticated tools for browsing and searching this material for articles relating to any particular topic or topics. While it is relatively expensive as CD-ROM publishing goes, it is still substantial cheaper, and vastly easier to store and access, than any conventional printed newspaper archive. This is the first newspaper to follow this route, but it surely demonstrates what all newspaper archives will soon look like.
This includes historical radio sound archive recordings, photojournalism images and newspaper cuttings covering the entire period of the Second World War, linked by a timeline and database. Again, this is at the expensive end of current CD-ROM titles, but it provides a quite unique tool for dramatically presenting, investigating and analyzing the history of this period.
This is an extremely comprehensive, and extensively annotated, global atlas featuring colour maps of the whole world which can be "zoomed" into and out of. It has a wide variety of facilities - for example, it can present detailed street maps for many large cities. It includes indexed references to over 120,000 locations, plus textual descriptions of 20,000 historical, cultural and geographical features.
This is one of the finest collections of NASA pictures available, containing over 375 images, with actual photographs taken on a variety of major missions, covering the Space Shuttle, Jupiter and Saturn projects, and Halley's comet.
Another Microsoft publication, this is one of a series which Microsoft is developing on great composers. The following comments are from a recent review: "The combination of text with pictures and, most importantly, sound, combined with the user's interaction, cannot be achieved with any other media. As teaching aids this series of CD-ROM's are unbeatable, and for home entertainment they are an instructive enhancement to your listening" (Multimedia Mozart: The Dissonant Quartet, Paul Begg, Personal Computer World, February 1994, pp. 464-5).