Nic Singh

December '96

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A Discussion on


Multimedia, or mixed-media, systems offer presentations that integrate

effects existing in a variety of formats, including text, graphics,

animation, audio, and video. Such presentations first became commercially

available in very primitive form in the early 1980s, as a result of advances

that have been made in digital compression technology-- particularly the

difficult area of image compression. Multimedia online services are

obtainable through telephone/computer or television links, multimedia

hardware and software exist for personal computers, networks, the internet,

interactive kiosks and multimedia presentations are available on CD-ROMs and

various other mediums. The use of multimedia in our society has it benefits

and it's drawbacks, most defiantly. Some of the more computer-related uses of

multimedia, such as electronic publishing, the internet, and computers in

education will be discussed in depth thought this paper.

Electronic publishing is the publishing of material in a computer-accessible

medium, such as on a CD-ROM or on the Internet. In a broader sense of the

term it could also include paper products published with the aid of a desktop

publishing program, or any form of printing that involves the use of a


Reference works became available in the mid-1980s both in CD-ROM format and

online. Increasingly, in the 1990s, magazines, journals, books, and

newspapers have become available in an electronic format, and some are

appearing in that format only. Companies that publish technical manuals to

accompany their other products have also been turning to electronic


Electronic books have been recently introduced to the world as a whole. This

new concept is the use of internet or otherwise computer technology to

electronically convert books to a digital, readable format viewed on a

television set or computer screen. This would most likely be done by scanning

in individual pages in a book, arrange them in orderly fashion, and have

users be able to cycle back and forth between the photo-identical pages. This

method would be very quick, and very easy to accomplish- that is- scanning

pages as opposed to re-typing millions of words is preferred. This brings us

to another method in electronic book production- the interactive method. In

digital format, the book's pages can only be viewed, just like a book. If a

reader would want to take notes from a book, he/she would have to write down

the notes by hand, or would be forced to photo-copy the page(s). If the book

was typed out entirely as would be done by an electronic word processor such

as Microsoft Word, users would greatly benefit. The ability for the computer

to recognize the words on the screen as actual words as opposed to mere

bitmaps is often unrealized to the computer non-familiar. This recognition

allows the page to be edited with complete interactivity and ease- again like

Microsoft Word. Books can be updated or corrected in real time, without

having to re-upload corrected pages, or compensate for unalignment in words

and page breaks. Perhaps the most beneficial to the user is the

interactivity- the ability to interact with the words in the book. By

highlighting letters on the page, copying them, and pasting them in personal

clipboards or other word processing programs, the tedious task of note-taking

can be eliminated. This idea, on the other hand, can raise issues with the

author and publisher of the book. Plagiarism, already a problem, would run

wild in this area. Users would theoretically be able to copy entire books or

magazines to their personal files, and be able to use them as their own

reports or writings. Additionally, the ability to view a book and it's

contents at no charge obviously will not agree with some publishers. This

also brings up the idea of charging people for time "online." Users could be

charged money for use of electronic books/magazines on a time basis. This,

however, will not go over well in the public domain. We would rather take on

the trouble of taking manual notes than be charged for something that is

otherwise free at a library.

In a very short time the Internet has become a major vehicle of worldwide

communication and an unrivaled source of information. One of the Internet's

fascinations is that its resources are limited only by the number of

computers participating in the World Wide Web and the imaginations of their


The Internet is an international web of interconnected government,

education, and business computer networks- in essence, a network of networks.

From a thousand or so networks in the mid-1980s, the Internet had grown to

about 30,000 connected networks in mid-1994. By mid-1995 the number of

networks had doubled to more than 60,000, making the Internet available to an

estimated 40 million people worldwide.

The Internet owes its unusual design and architecture to its origins in the

US Defense Department's ARPANET project in 1969. Military planners wanted to

design a computer network that could withstand partial destruction (as from a

nuclear attack) yet still function as a network. They reasoned that

centralized control of the data flow through one or a few hub computers would

leave the system too open to attack. Every computer on the network should be

able to communicate, as a peer, with every other computer on the network.

Thus if part of the network was destroyed, the surviving parts would

automatically reroute communications through different pathways. Because many

factors--power outages, overtaxed telecommunications lines, equipment

failure--can degrade a network's performance, the ARPANET solution was also

attractive to networkers outside the military.

The Internet is also a repository of information for businesses. Thousands

of discussion groups with specialized interests--in topics ranging from

aeronautics to molecular biology--share data across the Internet. The US

government posts more and more information, such as Commerce Department data

and new patent filings, on the Internet. Additionally, many universities are

converting large libraries to electronic form for distribution on the

Internet. One of the most ambitious examples is Cornell University's ongoing

project to convert 100,000 books, printed over the past century, on the

development of American infrastructure- books on bridges, roads, and other

public works.

Some businesses have also begun to explore advertising and marketing on the

Internet. Thus far results have been mixed. Protection of copyrighted

material is a problem, because anyone can download data from the Internet.

Some companies have explored encrypting data for sale on the Internet,

providing decoding keys only to buyers of the data, but this scheme will not

prevent the buyers from repackaging and reselling the data. However, the

companies are very reluctant to deny the lure the internet generates. Any

customer from around the world could log on to a company site, get

information in seconds, and even order directly through the company's server.

The recent development in modem speeds have also allowed businesses to

elaborately cram web sites with spectacular multimedia effects, drawing

surfers in young and old. Advertising on the internet is relatively cheap

(compared to television) and is very specialized and often more effective.

Companies can choose to advertise on certain high hit rate sites that pertain

to that company's field. This makes the advertisement seen by more of it's

target audience, and as a result, the advertisement will be more effective.

The explosive growth of the Internet has been fueled by individual users

with modem-equipped personal computers. Most of these users subscribe to

local networks that provide a connection to the wider Internet. As well, a

lot of users (including myself) choose to use direct-connection service

providers. Unlike separate networks like AOL, the direct service providers

often have less users, thus increases the speed of the T1 connection. Many

users, as well as businesses, can create their own "home pages"- points of

access that allow anyone on the Internet to download information from the

personal computer. The prime cause of the Internet explosion, however, has

been the development of the World Wide Web service: a collection of several

thousand independently owned computers, called Web servers, that are

scattered worldwide. Using software programs such as Mosaic and Netscape,

individuals can enter the World Wide Web and "browse" or "surf" the Internet

with increasing ease and rapidity through a system of hypertext links. This

is perhaps the most exiting part about the internet. You can visit any

website you like, wherever it is located at no extra charge, and download

files and view great multimedia effects at any time. Though greatly

over-hyped as the "Information Superhighway," the Internet will become

increasingly more interactive and will play a much more significant role in

the future.

Since their introduction in schools in the early 1980s computers and

computer software have been increasingly accessible to students and

teachers--in classrooms, computer labs, school libraries, and outside of

school. By the mid-1990s there were about 4.5 million computers in elementary

and secondary schools throughout the United States. Schools buy Macintosh and

IBM-compatible computers almost exclusively (though mostly Macs, dang it!!),

although nearly half of their computers are based on older designs such as

the Apple IIe. Students spend on the average an hour per week using school

computers. Though this depends on the student

Computers can be used for learning and teaching in school in at least four

ways. First, learning involves acquiring information. Computers- especially

linked to CD-ROMs and video disks that electronically store thousands of

articles, visual images, and sounds- enable students to search the electronic

equivalent of an encyclopedia or a video library to answer their own

questions or simply to browse through fascinating and visually appealing


Second, learning involves the development of skills like reading and

mathematics- skills that are greatly learned on computers in basic forms.

Software called computer-assisted instruction, or CAI, asks questions to

students and compares each answer with the single correct answer- a very

basic program. Typically, such programs respond to wrong answers with an

explanation and another, similar problem. Sometimes CAI programs are embedded

in an entertaining game that holds student interest and yet keeps student

attention on academic work. Most CAI programs cover quite limited material,

but some larger-scale reading and mathematics programs have been developed.

Third, learning involves the development of a wide variety of analytic

understandings. Computers help students reach these goals through software

such as word processors , graphing and construction tools, electronic

painting and CAD programs, music composition programs, simulations of social

environments, and programs that collect data from science laboratory

equipment and aid in analysis.

Finally, a large topic in learning is communicating with others--finding and

engaging an audience with one's ideas and questions. Several types of

computer software can be used in schools for communications: desktop

publishing and image-editing software for making professional-quality printed

materials, computer programming languages such as BASIC or Pascal or C for

creating interactive computer exercises, and telecommunications software for

exchanging ideas at electronic speeds with students in other classrooms all

over the world.

The computer in education can pose great benefits to the student, but to a

limited extent. The computer must be used as a tool, and not as a teacher. It

should be thought of as an educational assistant (in the school setting) and

not a game machine. Computers have unlimited possibilities, and we should

incorporate them into our schools. But in doing this, we must realize that

computers should not be the main focus, education and the quality of the

teachers should be. For any case, without solid teaching and instruction,

computers and other such resources become useless.

Nicholas Singh

[email protected]

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