Roaming Through the CD-Roms
Today, we turn to the Internet for virtually all questions. Also, software is now downloadable without the necessity of physical material. But the case has not always been the same. For example, in 1994 and 1995 computer programs were on CD-Roms. The following text showcases the best software of times past.
Like miners to the gold rush, book publishers, game developers, Hollywood types, and even business application programmers are packing their wares into multimedia CDs. But just because the box says it’s multimedia doesn’t mean that it’s good. Anyone with an idea, the right computer gear, and the $1.50 that it takes to cut a CD can market a multimedia product. The bottom line: For every hundred multimedia CDs, there might be one worth buying. To find the best ones, 38 PC Magazine staff members sorted through the proverbial haystack. Their picks are sorted into five groups: reference, home, rec room, coffee table, and office. The choices are listed alphabetically by title. Except when otherwise indicated, the list price is indicated. Mail-order houses and some retailers, of course, discount heavily.
Reference. Here are dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other information-rich titles.
A.D.A.M the inside story. A.D.A.M. Software Inc., estimated street price, $39. An easy-to-understand, fun-to-use multimedia tour of human anatomy, narrated by primogenitors Adam and Eve.
American Heritage Talking Dictionary. SoftKey International, $59.95. Based on the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, this volume can do what the print version can’t: enunciate pronunciations. You can also search for definitions by typing in words, and add the CD to the menu of your Windows-based processor.
Beethoven and Beyond. The Voyager Company, $24.95. A complete and beautifully organized multimedia course on the composer’s life, works, and place in history, as well as a survey of 19th century Western music, which includes essays on other composers.
Berlitz Live! Spanish. Sierra On-Line. Estimated street price, $110. Learn to speak survival level Spanish by listening, repeating and conversing in a series of well-organized lessons. Cultural insights, as well as a dictionary, are included.
Beyond the Sambatyon: The Myth of the Ten Lost Tribes. Creative Multimedia, estimated street price, $30. Created with the museum of the Jewish diaspora in Tel Aviv, this CD details the history of the famous fable and, documentary-style, tracks the origins of Jewish groups in every continent, using excellent photographs and a variety of primary sources.
The Complete Multimedia Bible. Compton’s NewMedia, $43.95. Based on the King James version, this Bible packs a bit more pizzazz than the print version. The full text of the Old Testament and the New Testament is searchable by keyword and supplemented by videos, photos, and narrated by James Earl Jones.
Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1995 Edition. Compton’s NewMedia. Estimated street price, $70 to $90. Combining 35,000 articles, over 7,000 photos, 80 videos, as well as maps, charts, and more than 14 hours of audio, this latest version of Compton’s is the best yet.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Presentation and conceptual drawings. Oxford University Press, $1,500. You’ll need a powerful computer and a passion for the architect to appreciate this presentation, but if you do, , you’ll find in this CD the most complete compilation of Wright’s works anywhere. It includes all of the drawings in the Frank Lloyd Wright archives and many from private collections.
Her Heritage, A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous American Women. Cambrix Publishing, estimated street price, $29. With more than 1,000 biographies of American women of note, this CD offers enlightening entries – as well as short films – on its remarkable subjects.
Lost Treasures of the World with Stan Grist, Follgard CD Visions, Inc., $49.95. Treasure-hunter Stan Grist gives tips on hunting and discusses some of his more exciting exploits in videos, text, and slide-shows. Amateur archeologists can scour the 5,000 Treasures database, which lists the approximate sites of yet-to-be-discovered treasures.
Microsoft Encarta 95. Microsoft Corp., estimated street price, $100. Organized by category – physical science and technology, geography, history and others – this version of Encarta is more comprehensive than its predecessor and easier to navigate. It has fabulous multimedia elements; includes a dictionary and a thesaurus.
Multimedia Space Explorer. Betacorp, $39.95. The complete history of NASA in a well-organized, visually stunning CD.
The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Grolier Electronic Publishing, estimated street price, $89. It is not as easy to use as Encarta, but Grolier’s CD is still remarkable and comprehensive. This latest version offers essay-like presentations on subjects such as The Artist in the Modern Era, Explorers and Horizons of Discovery.
PC Globe Maps “N” Facts. Broderband software Inc. Estimated street price $35. With new maps, charts, and statistical data, this latest version of the CD is a great homework-helper for kids ages 12 and older.
Power Japanese 2.0. Bayware Inc. Estimated street price – $165 to $199. In learning Japanese, hearing and pronouncing is everything. This CD provides excellent drilling and dialogue in well-designed audio-lessons, as well a word processor that lets students practice writing in Japanese characters.
The Random House Unabridged Electronic Dictionary. Random House reference and Electronic Publishing, $79. Powerful search tool, etymologies, illustrations and word pronunciations make this latest version of the great dictionary even better than before.
The Rosetta Stone Level 1A Russian. The Rosette Stone Powerpack. Fairfield Language. Technologies, Level 1A Russian, $395, PowerPac, $99. Level 1A Russian uses the submersion technique, to teaching language – that is, you start learning Russian by listening, speaking and associating words with pictures, instead of getting drilled-and-grilled. The most amazing part is that it really works. PowerPac offers English, Spanish, German, Russian and French, and teaches in much the same way.
3D Atlas. ABC/EA Home Software, $79.95. From a spinning three-dimensional globe, you can zero in on any country to view maps, read population and trade statistics, photographs and other information.
The 20th century Video Almanac. Mindsape Inc. $49.95. Spanning world history from 1890 to 1994, this CD captures many of the most important events of the century on video.
Vietnam. Medio Multimedia, $59.95. A remarkably thorough and compelling study of the war and surrounding events and issues, this CD covers all points of view and includes the complete text of George Herring’s America’s Longest War.
For the Home: This section includes Ds covering home improvement, gardening, and leisure activities.
Home PC Library; PC Library: Allegro New Media, $59.95 and $99.95, respectively: The multimedia compilation of answers to the most frequently asked questions, Home PC Library covers entertainment technology, hardware, home office issues, online services and more; PC Library covers the business market (spreadsheets, word processors, and more).
The art of Making Great Pastries. Ambrix Publishing, estimated street price, $28. 101 recipes, along with videos on tips and techniques.
4 Paws of Crab: Live Oak Multimedia Inc., $44.95. This Thai cookbook teaches you how to whip up everything from fresh Thai tofu soup with greens to stir-fried mushrooms in oyster sauce, with video demonstrations and cultural notes accompanying the recipes.
Kittens to Cats. Villa Crespo Software Corp. Inc. $49.95. A multimedia owner’s manual for feline fanatics, Kittens to Cats covers training, behaviour, health, grooming, nutrition, choosing a kitten and more.
Martial Arts Explorer. FutureVision Multimedia Inc., $49.95. Part game, part research text, this title invites you to explore a fictional martial arts expert’s collection and library on the nonfictional history, philosophy, and practice of these Easter disciplines.
Microsoft Automap Road Atlas 4.0 Microsoft Corp., estimated retail price, $39.95. Map out your trip from start to finish with this complete road atlas; the program automatically calculate your route (choose from scenic, fastest, shortest) and the time it will take you to travel. It also provides you with information on hotels/motels, rest areas,, national parks, historical sites that are along the way.
Popular Mechanic’s New Car Buyer’s Guide. Books That Work/Hearst New Media, $49.95. All the stats – including dealer costs, manufacturer’s suggested retail price, options lists (with prices), engine and drive-train specs, and more – on new cars and light trucks.
Rand McNally Tripmaker. Rand McNally New Media. $79.95. A complete road-trip planner, this CD automatically maps out the best route according to your specifications. It also offers off-road attractions, including museums, shopping, historical sites, stuff for kids, and more.
3D Home Architect CD-ROM. Broderbund Software Inc., estimated street price, $70. Re-do your kitchen, design your house – this CD is a powerful plotting and designing program that takes you through the entire process, including tips from American HomeStyle Magazine and 50 HomePro video clips.
Total health – Body and Mind. Softkey International, $79.95. It can’t supply human encouragement, but this CD can assess your physical shape and dietary and get you started on a tailor-made weekly regimen.
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs. Diamar Interactive Corp. $79.95 with companion book; CD-Rom only, $59.95. Expert Bryan Peterson teaches amateurs and pros alike about lens choice, film speed, aperture, shutter speed, and more.
For the Rec Room: Here are the hottest games and other forms of entertainment with little or no educational value.
Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Interactive. Graphix Zone Inc. $59.95. A beautifully conceived tribute to the beatnik bard and his ballads.
Chuck Jones’ Peter and the Wolf. Time Warner Interactive. $29.95. Delightful animation, a classic score, and a time-honored tale make this CD a family favorite.
Dark Forces. Lucas Art Entertainment Co. Estimated Street Price, $55. Everything you loved about Star Wars (compelling characters, complex plot, adventure, excellent music) is on this CD – and it’s interactive.
Dazzeloids. The Voyager Co. #40. The Dazzeloids are the cartoon heroes of the two interactive storybooks on this title, and there’re everything kids’ characters should be: weird, wacky, funny, smart, musical, and ethical (not goody-goody).
Doom II: Hell on Earth. GT Interactive Software/ID Software, estimated street price, $39 to $49. The computer game to rule all computer games goes to the second level – and CD-ROM: It’s more realistic, faster-paced, and filled with more gory details (cool!).
Flash Traffic City of Angels. Time Warner Interactive, $29,95. You: wise cracking FBI agent. Your mission: Track down terrorists and disarm nuclear bomb. Our advice: For adults only.
Johnny Mnemonic. Sony Imagesoft, estimated street price, $70. The cyberpunk hero stars in a game-cum-multimedia movie; super-cool effects and a full throttle plot make this CD a good choice for anyone who thrives on overdrive.
Microsoft Cinemania ’95. Microsoft Corp. Estimated street price, $60. Quite simply, this is the best movie database on CD-ROM, with reviews by critics Leonard Maltin, Roger Ebert, and Pauline Kael, and video clips, sound bites, and cinema trivia.
Microsoft Complete NBA Basketball. Microsoft Corp. Estimated street price $50. This is not a game, sports fans, it is however, a terrific collection of NBA stats, historic moments and video clips of memorable games.
Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time. 7th Level Inc., estimated street price, $50. Marvelously pointless and hilarious, this CD belongs in the drives of Monthy Python devotees.
MTV’s Club Dead. Viacom New Media. Estimated street price, $60. A role-playing game, this CD stars you as Sam Frost, virtual reality specialist, on an assignment to solve a high-tech crime. Bond-style gadgets and unexpected plot twists will keep you absorbed in alternate reality for hours.
Nascar Racing. Papyrus Design Group Inc., estimated street price, $55 to $65. Rubber-burners, rev. those engines: choose from nine tracks and race for one day or map out the whole season.
NHL Hockey. Electronic Arts. $59.95. Every hard-hitting detail has been perfected to make this game as realistic as you can get without full-body padding.
Relentless: Twinsen’s Adventurers. Help little Twinsen save the world from the nefarious Dr. Funfrock. A cleverly designed control panel lets you change Twinsen’s mental disposition as well as his movements.
The Residents Freak Show. The Voyager Company. $49.95. Characters from circus sideshows tell their stories through the songs, photo albums, and video clips of the underground rock group, the Residents.
Simcity 2000 CD Collection. Maxis, estimated price, $70. You are the mayor of a major metropolis and must manage everything from natural disasters to urban planning. You’ll have your hands full: if you are not judicious and attentive, your voting public may riot and impeach you.
Sports Illustrated Multimedia Almanac, 1995 Edition. StarPress Multimedia, estimated Street Price, $40. All the stats, highlights, low-points and events from the last year and a half in sports.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual. Simon and Schuster Interactive, $69.95. The ultimate trekkie tour of the Enterprise: Explore Captain’s quarters, Ten Forward, the Bridge, the Ready Room, and key hulls of the mothership.Transport Tycoon.
MicroProse Software. Estimated price, $58. As the president of a major transportation company, you’ve got to develop and maintain roads, rails, airports, bridges, and tunnels within budget and for serious profit.
Under a Killing Moon: Access Software Inc. $99.95
You play down-and-out P.I. Tex Murphy in a script that runs like the best tongue-in-cheek, slap-stick film noir movies, and since each character in the game is played by a real-life actor (including Margot Kidder and James Earl Jones), you really feel as though you’re in one.
U.S. Navy Fighters. Electronic Arts, $59.95. Complete with high flying action, flight simulation, and co-pilots who swear like sailors. Puts you in the cockpit for the virtual ride of your life.
Warren Miller’s Ski World. Multicom Publishing. $49.95. Ace skiing instructor Warren Miller shows instructional videos for all levels, clips of the pros on the slops, and a guide to the world’s top ski resorts.
Wing Commander III: Origin Systems, estimated street price, $55 to $70. Fight alien invaders to save the Earth and command dozens of death-defying flying missions; the cast includes you (played by Mark Hamill) and a host of other stars.
Xplora 1 Peter Gabirel’s Secret World. Interplay Productions, estimated street price, $60. One of the most ingenious implementations of multimedia yet, this CD is a coup for Gabriel fans. It includes full-length videos, discographies, interviews with the musician and his collaborators, and footage from his performances.
For the Coffee Table: This section includes multimedia titles that would also make wonderful, large-format, hard-cover picture books (indeed, some of them were books before they were CDs).
American Visions. Creative Labs Inc. $39.95. A tour of the Roy R. Neuberger collection of 20th-Century art, with information and photos of the artists, the collector’s commentary, and discussion of the historical context for the works.Antarctica. Cambrix Publishing, estimated street price, $29. The white continent, in all its icy beauty and ecological complexity.
A Brief History of Time. Creative Labs Inc. $59.95. The best-selling book on astronomy and physics is beautifully illustrated and explored; author Stephen W. Hawking narrates.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Revealed. Logos Research Systems, $59.95. More a compelling documentary than a CD-ROM, this title investigates the history and meaning of the artifacts using over an hour of video clips and three dimensional animation that lets you zoom in on the scrolls.
Great Artists. Attica Cybernetics, $59. Featuring 40 artists whose works hang in the National Gallery in London, this title explores the work and method of great European painters; search for definitions of artistic terms by clicking on them.
Material World: A Global Family Portrait. StarPress Multimedia, estimated street price, $40. The consummate multimedia coffee-table book, this title is the collaborative effort of 16 photojournalists who document the lives, rituals, and possessions of families in 13 countries.
People Weekly: 20 Amazing Years of Pop Culture. The Voyager Co., $29.95. The life and times of the stars and local heroes, as covered by the chronicler of pop culture since 1974.
Safari. Medio Multimedia Inc., $59.95. Narrated by wildlife photographer and writer Jonathan Scott, this CD covers Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve in living color and glorious detail.
Small Blue Planet: The Cities below. Small Blue Planet: The Real Picture Atlas, Version 2.0. Cambrix Publishing, estimated street, $29 and $39, respectively. The first CD takes you above America’s largest cities for a bird’s eye view. The second features satellite photographs of geographical hot spots.
The Ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright. Byron Preiss Multimedia Company Inc./ Microsoft Corp. $59.95. An introductory survey of the master architect, this CD combines biographical and historical information, photographs, videos and sound.
The Way Things Work. DK Multimedia, estimated street price, $50. David Macaulay’s classic book comes to CD-ROM, with animations and illustrations so clear and engaging that it makes learning about physics, electricity, and other lofty scientific principles fun.
World Vista Atlas. Applied Optical Media Corp., $49.95. Based on the latest Rand McNally maps, statistics and photos, and music samples from the Smithsonian’s Folkways Collection, this atlas provides a complete – and stunning – worldview.
For the Office. You’ll find all types of business enhancing multimedia here.
Cambium Sound Choice, Volume 2. Cambium Development Inc., $69. This collection packs an assortment of musical sound bites for professional business presentations. Original recordings, the 29 samples range from hard rock to classical.
Corel Gallery 2. Corel Corp. $99. A library of professional clip-art, this CD offers 500 photos, 500 fonts, and 50 percent more clip-art than the previous version.
Corel Stock Photo Library. Corel Corp. $995. 20,000 royalty-free photos on over 200 subjects.
HP Support Assistant. Hewlett-Packard Co., $395 per year. For the office that is heavily endowed with Hewlett-Packard equipment, this subscription-service CD includes detailed technical support for printers, PCs, servers, and network products.
Microsoft Developer’s Network CD. Microsoft Corp. $195. (level 1), $495 (level 2). Must-buys for Microsoft developers, these two disks contain volumes of technical information collected from books, magazines and online services.
Microsoft Technet. Microsoft Corp. $299 (single-user license). $699 (unlimited user license), updated CD released monthly. A great subscription service for techs departments, two disks answers to all technical questions about Microsoft products, includes patches and updates for software.
Multimedia Business 500, release 2. Allegro New Media. $49.95.
Based on the 1995 edition of Hoover’s Handbook of American Business, this CD compiles corporate profiles and relevant financial information on 500 top U.S. companies; with a subscription to Prodigy, you can link to current stock quotes.
Multimedia MBA Small Business Edition. SoftKey International, $149.95. A collection of information, videos, slide shows, and photographs, this CD offers advice of interest to small-business owners.
Multimedia Typing Instructor. Individual Software Inc., estimated street price, $29. This CD teaches typing in the kind of environment on-the-fly business folk are most familiar with an airport lobby. Once you’ve described your typing skills in a passport, you’re moved to a simulated airport seat to begin your lesson; the program tracks your progress, critiquing your speed and accuracy.
Phonedisc Powerfinder ‘95. Digital Directry Assistance Inc., $249. With 90 million listings and powerful searching capabilities, finding a number on this CD is easier than dialing information.
Photodisc Signature Series. PhotoDisc Inc., estimated street price, $299 per CD. Several hundred first-rate photographs are arranged by subjects such as “Colors” and “Children of the World”; you can search for an image by keyword.
Select phone. Pro CD Inc., $299. Like Phone Disc, this volume is an extensive electronic dialing directory; the company also offers other operator-like CDs, including Free Phone (800 directory). Canada Phone, and Home Phone.