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 a 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 available on CD-ROMs and various other mediums. The use of multimedia in our society has its benefits and drawbacks, most definitely. Some of the more computer-related uses of multimedia, such as electronic publishing, the internet, and computers in education, will be discussed in-depth throughout 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 desktop publishing programs or any form of printing that involves the use of a computer. 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 publishing. Electronic books have recently been 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 individual pages in a book, arranging them in an orderly fashion, and having 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 photocopy 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 misalignment 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. However, this idea can raise issues with the author and publisher of the book. Plagiarism, already a problem, could run wild in this area. Users would theoretically be able to copy entire books or magazines to their personal files and use them as their own reports or writings.
Additionally, the ability to view a book and its 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. However, this will not go over well in the public domain. People 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 users. 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 such as power outages, overtaxed telecommunications lines, and 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 websites 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 its 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 fewer users, thus increasing 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 exciting 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 overhyped 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 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 those 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 information.
Second, learning involves the development of skills like reading and mathematics, which are greatly enhanced through basic forms of learning on computers. 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 while keeping 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.
In any case, without solid teaching and instruction, computers and other such resources become useless.