Sunday, July 29, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (15)

1987: External CD-ROM player

The external CD-ROM player on the photograph was my first private CD-ROM player, a Sanyo PD1, Portable CD-ROM drive (serial number 13711231). At that time I was working for a software company, which had electronic publishing as a mission. Publishing CD-ROMs was part of the mission. But preaching is not enough to convince potential clients. So a PC plus a CD-ROM player was needed and those PCs were not in abundance on the market. There was no consumer market yet as CD-ROM was still a carrier of text rather than multimedia. If you needed a CD-ROM player in the early years you needed external top loaders, which were not exactly portable. So the next generation external CD-ROM players had portables, which could be linked to the PC with a 16 pins cable and software. By 1988 the first built-in CD-Rom players came on the market, produced by unknown companies. The company I was working for bought a BEST machine, which looked like a sewing machine with a blue screen. It worked well and it was transportable (something like 8 kilo in weight); but for demonstration purposes it was sufficient.

But the hardware was not the only worry from the start of CD-ROM. There was a problem with the software. From the beginning of CD-ROM in 1985 there was a problem with the software format. Every brand had its own format, which presented a problem to publishers. They would have to format their products according to brands. This would present an extra cost factor. As the problem was soon recognised by the industry, action was initiated. Computer companies (Apple), publishers (Elsevier Science with Philip Lord), software companies (Microsoft) and electronics manufacturers (Philips) started to talk to each other and decided to establish an industry standard to overcome this standard. And soon there was the High Sierra standard, named after the conference hotel High Sierra at Lake Tahu (USA). This industry standard became an official standard, ISO 9660. This standard gave an impulse to the CD-ROM text publishing industry.

In the first five years of CD-ROM the market was a professional information market and the products were mainly text oriented products such a reference works and databases. With the advent of internet between 1991 and 1993, the debate came to the point that publishers were asking themselves whether the future would be off-line with CD-ROM or online. A publisher like Elsevier SCience had invested heavily in CD-ROMs as the products were close to the books they used to publish.

It was only by 1989 that the consumer market was addressed, partly with text products and multimedia products. Problem was the lack of an industry standard of multimedia. By 1991 the MPC standard came about and the CD-ROM market bursted open. PCs were sold with built-in CD-ROM players and a bundle of CD-ROMs. Philips, still a computer manufacturer at that time, was ahead of the trend and started in 1989 the Headstart PC series with built-in CD-ROM player and a bundle/bookshelf of CD-ROMs. In Europe the bundle of CD-ROMs, under the name CompLex, was produced by AND in Rotterdam; one of these CD-ROMs contained a European road database.

Blog Posting Number: 826


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