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Multimedia - Why Bother?

A presentation at the New Directions in Software Development conference at Wolverhampton
When Apr 09, 1994
Where Wolverhampton

This is the text summarising my speech:

Multimedia: why bother?

In the past going beyond text always had a cost implication and delivery to other users was problematic.  Graphics terminals were expensive, sound was experimental and digital television hardly conceived.  In order to achieve widespread distribution of software,  mono-font text was the sole medium for delivery.

On early  personal computers, the questions were all about justifying the use of usually minimal colour, audio beep feedback and deciding who would be able to use it & when.  Colour graphics would mean the purchase of an extra circuit card - remember CGA / EGA and VGA? Over the last five years it has become increasingly difficult to buy a text only PC - who would want one now if it was given?

Sensible technical limits to media quality have been attained and virtually all computers deliver.  The current generation of microcomputers can produce CD quality audio, slide quality graphics and broadcast quality television.  It won’t be long before it will be hard to find a PC without these characteristics for input, storage and output.

Extra costs for multimedia remain in the effective creation of quality multimedia materials, because of the artistic design skills required, offset a little by the availability of clip art, sound and TV.  These costs do not affect informal work group use of multimedia nor is there significant cost in delivery.

At the same time as this technology change has surprised us, we have changed as information consumers.  Our exposure to television, film and other entertainment, the visual and aural backdrop of everyday experience may have altered expectations.  When was the last time that you saw handwriting?  A particularly interesting change is the increase in speed of television sequence editing. Children’s television has literally exploded in pace and complexity since the days of Andy Pandy.  It seems credible that we have the capacity to absorb this kind of information since the advertisers probably know what they’re doing!

The essential question facing us now is not concerned with cost or technical features, but one of the quality and effectiveness of the use of computers.  The feasibility question has disappeared and we must now ask why leave out speech, music, pictures and animation?; after all they form a large part of our normal, everyday experience.

So what roles can multimedia play?

Communication

Arguably, computer use is strongly a communicative act. Effective human communication is strongly enhanced by the redundancy of message offered through combinations of visual imagery, animated gesture and expression, audio cues and clues and, of course, symbolic text.

Participation

The multimedia personal computer can enhance participation because those who find it hard to read and compose text will now be able to use their normal mode of communication - mixed aural and visual messages and presentations.

Delight

W. Edwards Deming explained that satisfying customers is not enough - that delighting them is desirable so that they become allies in selling products. Products where multimedia has been effectively employed have the capacity to delight where static text and graphics merely satisfy.

(Words: 552 )

Filed under:

Lewis Carroll describes a fictional map that had:

"the scale of a mile to the mile."

A character notes some practical difficulties with such a map and states that:

"we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well."
— Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, Lewis Carroll, 1893

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