'The Matrix' on DVD and video


What is multimedia? What does multimedia mean to me? What ever happened to CD-ROMs?
Dec 19, 1999


 Q: I have to write a short report for a consortium of investors summarizing the main aspects of multimedia and the key commercial factors involved.

If you could help me I would be most grateful.


A: That's a big topic and I don't really know where to begin. As a multimedia developer I would say that the three key commercial factors for multimedia are: Internet, Internet, Internet. A few years ago the multimedia industry, which primarily revolved(!) around CD-ROM content, existed on it's own. But then the Internet came along, and multimedia, particularly CD-ROM based stuff, became much less important than the ability to put content on the Internet. Unfortunately, the Internet adds a whole set of new limitations and problems to multimedia development.

I don't know that this answers your question, but it pretty much sums up what I think happened to the industry.


Q: I am a student doing a research project in my Introduction to Visual Literacy class on the future of CD-ROM technology. I believe that you would have some insight on the past, present, and future trends of CD-ROMs and I was wondering if you or one of your staff writers would answer a few questions for me in order to gather data.

  1. Why CD-ROMs were popular in the past?
  2. What their main functions were then?
  3. Has there been a noticeable drop off in CD-ROM manufacture and sale? If
  4. so, why?
  5. Are there any specific reasons for this drop off?
  6. Will the CD-ROM multimedia tool be used as much in the future and why?
  7. What do you think will be the main replacer of CD-ROM materials, if any, and why?
  8. Will something like the World Wide Web be an adequate supplier of multimedia services to the public, by way of replacing CD-ROM software, or will it remain popular?


A: Since my staff writers seem to have taken an extended lunch hour I'll take a crack at it.

CD based multimedia was popular because the CD held a lot of information and were reasonably inexpensive to mass produce. Unfortunately, just at the point where every computer came with a fast CD-ROM drive, and the industry seemed secure, the World Wide Web came along and diverted everyone's attention. CD-ROMs still have advantages over the web both because of the stability of authoring tools and the amount of data they can hold, but the Web is inevitable and CDs (and DVDs) can now act only in a supporting role to the Web and in niche applications. Theoretically, eventually the web will be so fast that CDs will be irrelevant.

Personally, I don't care about the distribution medium, I care about what you can do with the tools and the medium. Unfortunately, the web is still limited by the large numbers of people not using cable modems!


Q: I am a student who is doing a course in Systems and Control. For my assignment I must ask experts what the words 'multi-media' means to them. To help me with my course could you please email me what you think you the words mean or what a multi-media package should include.


A: I can't define it; but I know it when I see it.

Macromedia Director is a great multimedia authoring tool; if I were going to use any tool it would have to offer at least the same set of features.

Good luck.

[When I received this letter I had to wonder about the instructor teaching this class. Did he/she really charge their students with the task of asking "experts" what the word 'multimedia' means to them? What was the expected result? Who were these experts willing to wax eloquent on the meaning of a word?]


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