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For the strangers to paradise

Although multimedia is still in its infancy, Hugh John finds a guide to demystify some of its more unusual aspects

MULTIMEDIA,THE COMPLETE GUIDE. Dorling Kindersley book. Pounds 19.99, ISBN 0 7513 0243 0

Who better to explain the wonders of multimedia than Dorling Kindersley? As the publisher of innovative and widely-acclaimed CD-Roms, educational and reference books, the firm is pre-eminent in both electronic and conventional publishing.

Multimedia, the Complete Guide covers all aspects of the multimedia world, from developments in CD-Rom and computer technology to the rapidly expanding Internet and World Wide Web.

The text, which is superbly complemented by more than 1,000 illustrations and photographs, can be understood by younger readers but contains enough detail to satisfy advanced students.

The book, in fact, goes well beyond its implied remit and would be a welcome addition to the science section of any school library. Chapter two, for example, has an excellent account of the binary system which underpins computing and the whole process of digitisation. Although multimedia is still in its burgeoning infancy (two million CD-Roms were sold worldwide in 1991 and 140 million last year), many teachers have already found it invaluable in the classroom. The book looks at a wide variety of educational software but, perhaps surprisingly, devotes little space to electronic encyclopedias. Encarta is discussed but there is no mention of Grolier or World Book.

The final section of the book explores the digital superhighway, examines the significance of the Internet and the World Wide Web and anticipates future developments such as interactive television and virtual shopping. Wisely, the authors have elected to hover on the periphery of the near future though this does mean that they have, in some instances, been overtaken by the present. Interactive advertising has already appeared on cable television screens.

And if the updated adage that the best way to a child's heart is through its games console holds true, then this book is going to be a huge success. The authors discuss all the best games - Myst, Doom, Marathon 2 - with an avidity and authority that hints at a middle age misspent in the glow of an overworked monitor.

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