Monday, July 30, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (16)

1995: CD-ROM covers

CD-ROM covers show history. You can read from the covers whether they are text CD-ROMs or multimedia CD-ROMs. Up to 1992 CD-ROMs were mainly used as carriers for large textbooks, usually medical handbooks, encyclopaedias and dictionaries, or databases. After 1992 when the Multimedia PC standard was agreed upon the multimedia CD-ROMs came onto the market and the covers became more interesting. I have a CD-ROM collection of 766 artefacts of which I will show a few.

CD-ROM was based on the same production technology as audio CD. That process was already well known. But putting other data than music on the disc was another hurdle. Storing music on a disc was a simple process, but storing text on a CD-ROM and retrieving this, required more action. When the process was finished a glass disc, also called direct disc, was produced and tested. On top of the disc a label was fixed. in the case of the legal disc AROB test CD a silver label was fixed. VNU New Media had a glass disc produced of the text of their general encyclopaedia. By 1996 the glass disc disappeared as a simulation machine was developed by Elektroson.

I was personally involved in the production of the Kluwer, KIT, Nijgh and Lexitron discs. They were produced with three different software packages. The Kluwer and KIT discs were produced with Status, a database and retrieval package, developed by the UK nuclear organisation in Harwell. Both discs should be covered with gold as their production was so expensive. The software package was for a mainframe machine and adapted for PC. With memories of 600Mb it was possible to very large text databases on a disc. But Status stopped at 99.999 documents and in the case of Kluwer we processed over 100.000 documents. Before this handicap was discovered and mended we were a few cycles further. The Nijgh disc was produced with a package software, Dataware. The Lexitron disc of Van Dale Lexicografie was produced with the database package Wordsheet, developed by Walter van Rozendaal.

All kind of marketing techniques were used, like numbering the discs as was the case with a German telephone directory. The LiteRom is probably the most costly CD-ROM in Dutch history as the producer got a court case against him. The CD-ROM contained book reviews from newspapers. They could be consulted in libraries. But when the reviews were copied onto a disc, the newspapers and the reviewers started a court case against the publisher in 1992 and won the case in 2002.

From 1992 multimedia CD-ROMs were published. It gave an impulse to the sale of PCs as they were sold with bundles of multimedia encyclopaedias and other titles. This led to multimedia departments of publishing companies. For example in the Netherlands the consumer book and magazine division started a multimedia department which bought foreign productions, translated them and put them on the market. Later on it yielded productions as CD-Dom about the Duomo in Utrecht and Escher.

As broadband was not yet developed into the Mbps, CD-ROMs were the carriers for beautiful multimedia productions such as Anne Frank and Sviatlana, just to show two winners of the Europrix. Of course the first overall winner of the Europrix in 1998 was a CD-ROM production: The Ceremony of Innocence; IMHO one of the most beautiful CD-ROM productions ever (which can only be played with a Windows 95 software).

With the advent of the multimedia CD-ROMs the covers started to change. There was more artwork on the labels and on the boxes as the products had to compete with books in the bookshop and with the boring packaging of software. The nicest CD-ROM box I have in my collection is of the disc Burundi Black; the box is attractive and tactile. A soft tiger motive piece of textile is on the cover.

Blog Posting Number: 827


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