Section 3

Contents of Section 3: OVERVIEW OF MULTIMEDIA
          Other Definitions
     Current Trends
               Visual-Image Formats
               Audio-Image Formats
               Internet-Related Formats and Terms
               Intranet Technologies
     Future Trends
     References on Multimedia and Related Topics
          Online Resources and Tutorials
          Other References


3.1 Introduction

The rapid ascent of multimedia technology over the last decade has brought about fundamental changes to computing, entertainment, and education. The exponential growth of multimedia technologies and applications has presented our computerized society with opportunities and challenges that in many cases are unprecedented. Nowhere is this impact felt more acutely than with information professionals. Multimedia applications have progressed to the point of sparking a fundamental paradigm shift in the very concept of information transfer and presentation.

Multimedia technologies face challenges as well. Any technology that enjoys such meteoric rise and rapid diffusion into the society from which it emerges cannot help but experience growing pains. As a result, the implementation of multimedia is hampered by questions of interoperability as many diverse vendors and producers attempt to lay claim to the market. It is stymied by its own rapid growth, with advances in multimedia leapfrogging, and being leapfrogged by, advances in hardware, storage, and bandwidth of the distributed networks that allow multimedia applications to be shared and utilized over telecommunications networks. And the field of multimedia faces social challenges as well, as the technology progresses at a pace that the surrounding society has difficulty matching. As a result, many people, including some in the information field, have given up on understanding multimedia concepts and have turned their back on participating in the growth of the technology. In the case of information professionals, most particularly those professionals in the library and information science field, this is a critical error.

Whatever the "library of the future" will look like, it is beyond question that it will utilize multimedia as a significant tool in its operations. Traditionally, librarians have maintained jurisdiction over this process, keeping the library as we have known it a public entity, offering access to all, regardless of class or ability to pay. We may be witnessing a change to this tradition. More and more, private industry is entering the library business, not in the collection of books, but rather in the collection of digital information. While these entities often utilize librarians in their functions, the librarian's social role is being rendered subservient to the corporate policies of profit. This is a dangerous precedent.

The purpose of this report--and, to a greater extent, of courses that may be developed in the field of multimedia--is to provide LIS professionals with some skill in multimedia technologies and techniques. The hope is that by gaining such knowledge and skills, these professionals may better and more actively participate in the development of multimedia applications and may take an active role in the creation of the library of the future, ensuring that it maintains its traditional social values and principles of egalitarian access.

3.2 Definitions

3.2.1 Multimedia

The technologies that comprise the phenomenon of digital multimedia and the applications that employ those technologies are diverse, and end-user understanding and acceptance of these technologies and applications are equally varied. As the technology progresses, multimedia systems have become more and more ubiquitous and transparent. Indeed, many users today who would not identify themselves as someone having a use for multimedia technology or equipment are far more familiar with it than they believe; but they do not consider the applications for which they use multimedia to be "true multimedia." The very term has generated an aura of mystique to the non-digital professional.

Multimedia technology is loosely and generally defined as the combined use of several methods of sensory transmission, employed for the transmittal of information to a receiver. Under this definition, multimedia technology is old and widely used, comprising television, many printed materials, performance art, and many educational materials. All of these systems involve the use of multiple sensory formats to facilitate the transmittal of information.

It is in the digital age that the term multimedia has taken on the definition and level of prestige that it currently enjoys. The advent of digital technologies has increased multimedia capabilities and potential to unprecedented levels. Digital multimedia are defined as the processes of employing a variety of digital images, synchronized and perhaps embedded within one another, or within an application, to present and transmit information. This definition requires a further sub-definition, in that "images" may be taken to imply visual images. On the contrary, an "image" is defined as any type of digitized information. An image may be a sound, a picture, a representation, or a section of text.

In the recent past, multimedia technology has developed further with the rise of relatively inexpensive and high-bandwidth networking technologies. These means of mass communication over long distances gave multimedia systems the ability to escape the CD-ROM and become "distributed" among many end-users, in many locations, often operating on different platforms. Distributed multimedia, as a technology, deal with combining digital multimedia images and applications with computer-networking techniques. The result is a form of multimedia that is not confined to one computer or one storage medium, but rather may be transmitted, shared, and applied among large numbers of end-users over long distances in real time. To date the World-Wide Web is the most prominent example of such distributed multimedia. The rise of distributed multimedia systems presents great opportunity for fields such as entertainment, education, health care, business, and the military. It also presents challenges in the areas of standardization and interoperability. Distributed multimedia systems are already being exploited, as evidenced by the rising popularity of the WWW, intranets, and multimedia groupware.

3.2.2 Hardware

Briefly, hardware may be defined as those physical components and peripherals that comprise a computer system. Hardware includes processor chips, memory chips, computer boards, information storage devices, networking devices, displays, input devices, and output devices. Today's digital multimedia applications require hardware platforms of increasing power and capabilities. Perhaps the most important hardware peripheral in the rise of consumer digital multimedia was the CD-ROM drive and the CD-ROM that is its storage medium.

3.2.3 Software

Software is defined as those programs and applications that run on computer systems. Multimedia software includes operating systems that run the multimedia platforms; drivers that control peripherals and I/O devices; applications; and data, which term includes the digital images that are combined to produce multimedia applications and presentations. Application programs can be used in a variety of ways to display, create, and edit digital images. These applications may support many digital-image formats, as in the case of Adobe Photoshop, or may be limited to one or a few proprietary formats, as with Apple QuickTime. Multiple formats exist for audio images, for static visual images, and for animated visual images.

3.2.4 Networks

Networks are defined as computers connected for the purposes of sharing information and/or applications. Networks can range in size from small peer-to-peer networks connecting only a few computers, to larger Local-Area Networks (LANs) that operate on client-server architectures, to Wide-Area Networks (WANs), large and geographically dispersed networks connecting thousands or even millions of computers, such as the Internet. These networks may consist of one network, or of networks of networks.

3.2.5 Other Definitions

The primary definitions necessary to understand networking as it pertains to multimedia are bandwidth (data rate) and medium (the wiring used for data transmission.)

Bandwidth measures the rate at which data is transmitted through the network. It is often used as a gauge of speed in the network. As technology has advanced over recent decades, bandwidth of networks has increased. High bandwidth is needed to facilitate distributed multimedia systems due to the large amounts of data that must be transmitted in image files.

As a hardware term, medium refers to the physical means used for data transmission. Hardware media include copper wires, fiber-optic cables, and radio-frequency (RF) transmissions. The medium often directly affects bandwidth and is, therefore, important in the functioning of distributed multimedia systems.

Another pair of networking definitions concerns the difference between analog and digital signals. Analog signals are continuous. Digital signals are based on binary code and can have only two states, 0 and 1. Digital transmission is achieved over analog transmission lines by manipulating the analog signal, but some transmission media are strictly digital, such as fiber-optic cable and some RF transmissions (Kagan 168-70).

Many methodologies exist for increasing bandwidth in a transmission system, including multiplexing and packet-switching. These techniques are not essential for an understanding of distributed multimedia, but it is essential to understand that they are used to increase bandwidth, which in turn is essential to the functionality of distributed multimedia.

Networking also includes specific hardware and software applications. Network-hardware devices include the wiring previously discussed, as well as routers, bridges, modems, security firewalls, adapter cards, and connectors. Hardware may also include high-capacity computers to act as servers for networks, large mainframes designed to service client computers, relatively dumb network computers, or actual dumb terminals.

Software applications used in networking include those programs designed to allow the networked computers to operate in conjunction with one another. This type of software is referred to as groupware (e.g., Lotus Notes). In addition, the Internet--and specifically the World-Wide Web--utilizes its own software applications to facilitate communications between different computers. Protocols, such as HyperText Transfer Protocol (http), and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), while not software applications, are standards that allow communication and digital data to be transferred between computers. Programming languages, including Visual Basic, C++, Java, Perl, and HyperText Markup Language (HTML) allow the creation of applications that can be distributed over networked computer systems. Finally, applications such as Web browsers like Netscape, Apache, and Mosaic allow multimedia data to be accessed across the World-Wide Web. These types of distributed multimedia are computer-based.

Other forms of digital multimedia include satellite television, cable TV, and advanced features offered by telephone companies, such as video conferencing and telecommuting systems, which may or may not be computer-based. And there is always the transfer between end-users of binary image files that are then utilized through applications residing on the user's computer. While this form of distributed multimedia is neither real-time nor interactive, it is nonetheless distributed multimedia.

3.3 History

3.3.1 Multimedia

The term multimedia became a buzzword in computer-related fields in 1993, but the CD-ROM, the disc on which most multimedia products are currently delivered, had been around for a number of years before that; and in fields such as education, multimedia had, for decades, meant the use of movies, slides, audio recordings, and the like. By the end of 1993 it was estimated there was an installed base in America of 3.6 million multimedia PCs. The multimedia buyer's average income was estimated to be $39,000, with women beginning to enter what had been an almost totally male-dominated market.

There was no shortage of "shovelware," low-quality products, often directly copied over from print media. However, production values were improving, and budgets for many of the well known titles were in the $250,000 range. By Christmas 1993, retail prices were in the region of $59-69.

In 1994, it is estimated that the installed base grew from 3.6 million to 11.4 million multimedia PCs. Another survey by Inteco estimated that in 1994 there were 13.4 million multimedia-capable computers in the U.S., with 2.7 million in Europe. Inteco predicted that in 1995 there would be 22 million such computers in the U.S., and 9 million in Europe. By Christmas 1994, U.S. retail prices had dropped to $39-49. Marketing and advertising costs were increasing and were approaching the costs of development, with the total costs for development and promotion of major titles reaching the $1 million mark and over.

In August 1995, the downward trend in retail prices continued, as Microsoft introduced new price points for its products, ranging from $19.99 to $49.99. This meant, for example, that Microsoft's Wine Guide, released in summer 1995 would cost $29.99 rather than its previous $45.00.

A U.S. Electronics Industry Association study of consumer attitudes towards multimedia, carried out in autumn 1994, found that nearly half the respondents were aware of the word "multimedia." The report also found that 8% of respondents owned multimedia-capable computers. Extrapolating this figure nationally would mean that there were approximately 7.5 million multimedia-capable computers in American homes. A further 9.5% of respondents intended to buy such computers over the following 12 months, with 53% of these planning to use them for entertainment and 55% for school work (WWW--Brief History of Multimedia). One marked trait of multimedia history has been the rise and fall of new and proprietary technologies; these may or may not claim to be the next industry standard but often fall by the wayside as the technology and the market move in new directions. Prime examples of these short-lived technologies include:

Volatility has marked the history of commercial multimedia technology, and it is by no means in the past. We continue to see such volatility in the industry today. It is crucial, therefore, that students of multimedia put themselves and their professional experiences in the context of the infancy of the industry. It may take decades for the industry and the technology to stabilize. For example, while from our present perspective color television appears to have rapidly supplanted black-and-white television, in fact it took eighteen years for color sets to outsell black-and-white sets. "Consumers were still buying 5 million BW sets per year thirty years after the introduction of color televisions" (Agnew, 241.) In the case of television, the transfer of technology was relatively simple. Given the complexity of the multimedia market and the variance of the technology and its applications, it is not unthinkable that three or four decades may be necessary before a standard technology is in place universally across the user base.

3.3.2 Hardware

The ancestors of modern microcomputer-based multimedia existed in what amounted to three branches, back in the ancient days of the early to mid 1980s. The IBM PC, the Apple Macintosh, and the Commodore Amiga were each optimized for specific tasks.

Designers of the original PC optimized their hardware and software for scrolling text. Standard displays were restricted to placing 256 different letters, numbers, and special symbols in a grid that consisted of 80 characters per row and 25 rows. Some of the special symbols allowed a coarse form of graphics. In the mid-80's, IBM based the design of a graphical-user-interface software product on such character graphics, believing that few users would pay for low-resolution color displays.

The designers of Apple's Macintosh took a different tack. In 1984, the original Mac not only provided an all-points-addressable screen that could address each screen pixel individually, but also included hardware and software that gave applications rapid and standard ways to draw high-resolution graphics as well as many different text fonts. While the imaging was good, color was limited to black and white. Commodore's original 1985 Amiga A1000 and its followers were designed to present video on interlaced television screens. These computers included hardware to support filling regions with color, and moving sprites over a fixed background (Agnew 239.)

As the IBM PC and compatible clones grew to dominate the microcomputer market, Macintosh became recognized as the leader in multimedia computing, retaining a solid market share. Commodore found its niche in the film and video industries and for the most part dropped from the consumer scene. PC manufacturers and software producers gradually realized the necessity of competing with the Apple interface and multimedia capabilities, and the Multimedia PC Marketing Council was formed.

In 1990, the Multimedia PC Marketing Council published a standard for PC multimedia platforms as an extension of the basic desktop-computer system. This standard, MPC Level One, dictated that a system must meet the following requirements to be considered a Level 1 system:

These standards were updated in 1993, when the MPC published the Level 2 specifications. According to the 1993 standards, a Level 2 computer must have:

3.3.3 Software

In 1994, the worldwide multimedia CD-ROM title market grew by 227%, according to the research firm Dataquest. They estimated that there were 53.9 million CD-ROM titles shipped, compared to 16.5 million shipped in 1993. However, the practice of "bundling" had to be considered. Bundling means that a number of CD-ROMS are shipped free with a multimedia PC; while this practice boosts unit sales figures, it carries a very low profit margin.

"Games, reference books, and education titles were the big hits of 1994," according to Dataquest. "Along with the battle for retail shelf space, the profit margin squeeze is choking developers as the average factory selling price of CD-ROM titles has sunk to an all-time low of $11 a copy."

Retail space was very much a problem for multimedia in 1994. Many shops were only beginning to allow space for multimedia titles, and these spaces were usually taken up by the very large companies such as Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Dorling Kindersley (see section 3.6). The fact that CD-ROMs had no standard packaging also hindered the growth in retail space.

In 1994, Microsoft led the worldwide CD-ROM title market with a 15.4% share. Apple sold the most multimedia computers, the market being up some 312% over 1993, at 10.3 million shipments (WWW--Brief History of Multimedia).

3.3.4 Networks

The history of telecommunications networking is beyond the scope of this report. Suffice it to say that continuous progress has been made up to the point of facilitating distributed digital multimedia. The history of networked media and multimedia, both in analog and digital forms, consists of highly episodic advances in several directions, including: the ability to make copies of distributed items and distribute those items across large areas; the simplification of the creation process, so that amateurs can create items for distribution to other users; and the development of fast access to the content of items. The end result was to increase the degree of interactivity across these networked systems and applications (Agnew 81).

The breakup of the AT&T monopoly and the introduction of competition to the telecommunications industry in the U.S. is an important aspect of multimedia history. New advances in land-based telecommunications and wireless technology, the advent of cable television and later direct-broadcast television, and the creation of online computer services and private networking services all contributed to increased bandwidth and the gradual introduction of the benefits of such bandwidth to the public.

3.4 Current Trends

3.4.1 Multimedia

Current trends in multimedia run along three tracks: stand-alone, distributed, and hybrid. Stand-alone multimedia in the form of storage-driven multimedia systems (i.e., the CD-ROM based application) are popular and continue to hold market share. Distributed multimedia are best seen in the World-Wide Web and the online-information services such as America Online, in the sense that the multimedia is accessed directly and is interactive across great distances. Hybrid systems are those applications that merge or attempt to merge both previous tracks. We are currently seeing many software applications, particularly the latest office-suite productivity software, that offers Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) functions that include not only traditional stand-alone objects such as pictures, or even audio, but even the ability to link to WWW and Internet sites. Also these applications, and others such as Microsoft FrontPage, allow end-users to collect commercial multimedia applications via networks with little or no formal expertise; indeed, end-users can similarly distribute the multimedia applications that they themselves have created.

The merging of distributed networks such as the World-Wide Web has made possible information access that was previously unheard of. One primary focus for the library and information science professional is the current creation of digital libraries. These electronic depositories can be accessed through a variety of interfaces, but the World-Wide Web has provided an optimum platform-independent interface.

Projects such as the Corbis digital-image library and George Lucas's announced intention to begin producing completely digital films are indicative of this trend. Even the Gutenberg Project, which has maintained a decidedly monomedia format, has been the focus of privatization attempts that would undoubtedly have led to an enhancement of the Project's collection via a multimedia interface (and most likely a fee). This trend illustrates not only the potential for wide access to materials, but also the possibility of the privatization of libraries, the social and cultural ramifications of which must be examined in depth.

3.4.2 Hardware

Current hardware has greatly improved even upon the 1993 MPC-2 standard for multimedia PCs. In addition, PCs have gained ground on Apple-brand computers, and are arguably on a par with these traditional multimedia platforms in capabilities and strengths. How the emergence of Apple-clone computers will affect this situation and the PC multimedia market share remains to be seen.

In 1995, the MPC-3 standard was published. It delineates the following specifications for MPC-3:

Current machines have surpassed even this level, with storage space now measured in 1-4 gigabytes standard on most PCs, 16-32 MB RAM, and up to a 200MHz clock speed on the Pentium chip.

A recent hardware improvement intended to have a direct impact on the multimedia computer was the introduction by Intel of the MMX technology. The technology is implemented at the microprocessor level, and is designed to enhance multimedia performance on the Pentium PC chip.

The MMX Pentium processor was re-engineered to include three primary architectural design enhancements. The enhancements included 57 new instructions specifically designed to manipulate and process video, audio, and graphical data more efficiently. These instructions are oriented to the highly parallel, repetitive sequences often found in multimedia operations.

Today's multimedia and communication applications often use repetitive loops that, while occupying 10 percent or less of the overall application code, can account for up to 90 percent of the execution time. A second enhancement is the addition of a process called Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD), which enables one instruction to perform the same function on multiple pieces of data. This allows the chip to reduce compute-intensive loops common with video, audio, graphics, and animation. The third enhancement is the addition of doubled on-chip cache size, from 16KB to 32KB. This enhancement allows more instructions and data to be stored on the chip, reducing the number of times the processor has to access slower, off-chip memory areas for information.

The Pentium MMX advertises a better, smoother and more realistic multimedia experience, while retaining complete compatibility with Intel processor-based PCs, existing operating systems and application software (WWW-Intel Homepage). In fact, the MMX technology may function only with software applications specifically designed to utilize the enhanced features of the chip.

Another current technology that holds important possibilities for the future is the emergence of inexpensive and relatively high-quality digital cameras. These digital-image-input systems allow a user to take either static pictures or dynamic movies (in some cases both) in immediate digital storage, eliminating the need for film and its processing. In many cases these images can then be transferred directly to multimedia platforms or the Internet, or used for even real-time display on a system. Many of the traditional camera companies are offering digital cameras that function much like traditional cameras. Kodak, Polaroid, and Canon all offer such digital cameras. Storage is either to a disk or to a storage medium on board the camera, from which the images may be transferred to disk.

One of the most popular digital cameras goes beyond just photographs. The Connectix QuickCam and the Color QuickCam offer a user the ability to input either static photographs or to use the QuickCam as a digital-video camera. The output can be stored or displayed in real-time. The marketing direction Connectix is taking for the QuickCam is towards inexpensive video-conferencing and bundling the QuickCam into Microsoft's and other software developers' conferencing packages. The QuickCam offers decent resolutions and in video mode allows a sufficient frame-per-second speed to give the illusion of motion, although it is still choppy. Usable with either Macintosh or Windows computers, the QuickCam supports the Windows AVI movie format and the BMP and TIFF image formats.

3.4.3 Software

The following is a summary of current file formats used for digital images: Visual-Image Formats

PCX - This format has been around for a long time, but is becoming less common. Many changes have been made to the format to keep it up to date, including the addition of more colors and higher resolutions, but it is still being replaced by more modern formats. It is not supported by default in Windows, and some Windows software provides no support for the format.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) - This format has also existed for some time, but the latest versions of the format specifications make it a capable format. The format is common in the desktop-publishing world, and almost all software packages support it. Recent versions of TIFF allow for image compression, and the format is handy for moving large files between computers.

BMP (Bitmap) - This format came into use with Windows 3.1. The format is uncompressed and can be quite large. For this reason, BMP is seldom used for large or high-resolution images. It has an advantage, however, in that it is widely supported in the Windows environment.

DIB (Device Independent Bitmap) - Another format popularized by Windows. This format, which is similar to BMP, allows files to be displayed on a variety of devices. DIB is used mostly by programmers who must display images on a variety of devices.

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) - A compressed image format developed by CompuServe, an online-information service. This format is widely supported, and several shareware viewers and converters for it exist as well.

EPS (Encapsulated PostScript File) - Originating in desktop publishing, the EPS format is common for a certain type of image, stored using PostScript code. While converting to EPS is difficult and often impractical, EPS may be converted to other formats. Most programs are incapable of displaying an image from an EPS file, as such files are intended to be sent to a printer that supports PostScript.

WMF (Windows Metafile Format) - This format, associated with Windows, is not commonly used.

TGA (Targa) - This was the first popular format for high-resolution (24-bit) images. The name comes from the original Targa board, the first true-color video board. Most video-capture boards support TGA, as do most high-end paint programs.

CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile) - This format was designed as a "standard" and then splintered into sub-standards.

HPGL (Hewlett Packard Graphics Language) - This file format is used for output to plotters, although some other hardware devices support it as an emulation. The format is far less common than it once was, although certain fields, such as CAD, use it frequently.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) - This format was designed for maximum image compression. JPEG uses lossy compression, which refers to a compression scheme that actually loses some of the data needed to reconstruct the image. The rationale behind lossy compression is that the human eye does not miss the lost information (Wodaski, 169-71).

PNG (Portable Network Graphics) - An extensible file format for the lossless, portable, well compressed storage of raster images. PNG provides a patent-free replacement for GIF and can also replace many common uses of TIFF. Indexed-color, gray-scale, and true-color images are supported, plus an optional alpha channel. Sample depths range from 1 to 16 bits. PNG is designed to work well in online-viewing applications, such as the World-Wide Web, so it is fully streamable with a progressive display option (WWW - PNG homepage). Audio-Image Formats

Waveform Sound Files - A waveform file stores the data needed to reconstruct the waveform that produces a sound. The sound is stored and digitized through sampling, by which the sound is broken into small pieces and digitized. The .WAV format is the most common format; it is the only waveform format supported by Windows. Other waveform extensions include .VOC, .SND, and .MOD.

Non-Waveform Files - These files, also known as MIDI files, store instructions instead of waveform data. For example, the file might store notes and their durations. MIDI files use synthesized instruments stored on the MIDI-capable sound card to produce notes. MIDI files are normally used to store musical information only, and carry the extension .MID (Wodaski, 20-21). Internet-Related Formats and Terms

Also affecting the current trends in multimedia are World-Wide Web viewing technology and the following tools. These tools are used to enhance distributed digital multimedia through the Web, which is currently the most widely used format for distributed multimedia:

HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) - An Internet protocol for the World-Wide Web that provides a means for Web clients and servers to communicate with one another. Closely related to the internet protocol TCP/IP. Exchanges Web information in four parts: connection, request, response, and close.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) - HTML is a dialect and subset of SGML, the Standard Generalized Markup Language. HTML is used to describe the structure of a Web document's content as well as behavioral characteristics. HTML is understood by all Web browsers (Tittel, 21-25).

Java - An interpreted, object-oriented programming language from Sun Microsystems. Used for creating small pieces of applications (applets), which are embedded in HTML files and run on end-user devices equipped with Java-enabled browsers.

ActiveX - Microsoft's answer to Java. ActiveX allows the running of embedded applications within Web pages. "ActiveX technology resembles plug-ins. Plug-ins are separate programs that extend the capabilities of your browser. ActiveX augments the use of plug-ins by simplifying the installation process. When a new object is encountered, ActiveX determines if your system has the system programs needed to run it and if it does not, downloads the program (with your consent), and automatically installs and configures the particular program" (WWW, Microsoft).

QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) - A multimedia tool from Apple Computers designed to allow the use of cursor keys for directional movement and to pick up objects. QTVR allows a creator to take pictures in several directions from a fixed center, to capture and refine the images, and to stitch the images together by morphing edges, to get 360-degree three-dimensional (3-D) effects. These effects are then converted into a compressed QTVR movie format.

VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) - A development language from Silicon Graphics which can be used as an extension to HTML and is a markup format for nonproprietary platform 3-D programming.

Real Audio - Created by Progressive Networks, this tool allows live transmission of audio with real-time encoding. The software then uses 9.6Kbps to transmit high-quality audio, compressed from 1.2Mbps.

StreamWorks - Software tool from Xing which permits live transmission with real-time audio encoding, and varying transmission rates from 9.6Kbps to T1 speed. StreamWorks also provides video transmission at 28.8Kbps for two to three frames per second, CD quality at ISDN line speed, and NTSC quality at T1 line speed. StreamWorks supports MPEG with proprietary extensions (Agnew, 232-33).

3.4.4 Networks

Current trends in networking include the broad-based attempts to both standardize and commercialize the Internet and the World-Wide Web. To get a feel for this trend, we should examine the nature of online-information services. America Online, Prodigy, and CompuServe offer such standardized services. The price for the convenience and relative stability of the services provided is a subscription fee for their use. The Internet has traditionally been a model of free exchange of information, but we are also seeing a concerted effort being made by private industry to exploit the market they see in the World-Wide Web. All the major long-distance companies have set up Internet Service Provider (ISP) services for customers, and we are seeing a trend towards more and more fee-based Web sites and services.

While a persuasive argument may be made that there is nothing wrong with charging a fee for the value-added services these corporate sites provide, from the perspective of library and information science this trend merits examination. As the World-Wide Web becomes more and more intertwined with multimedia platforms, tools, and services, we may soon witness a necessity for any digital libraries to charge fees in order to remain competitive, if such support is not forthcoming from government or other public sources. In addition, some LIS professionals may feel that the very concept of the library is threatened as private industry embraces libraries in for-profit ventures (or, at the very least, in non-profit ventures with a decidedly corporate agenda). Intranet Technologies

One current technological trend of networking is the development of intranet technologies. An extension of traditional Local Area Network (LAN) technology, the intranet is designed to utilize TCP/IP internet protocols to provide organizations with an internal micro-Internet and micro-WWW. The advantage of intranets is that they collect and distribute information within an organization much more cheaply and efficiently than traditional LANs, as well as being easier to set up, customize, and maintain.

Using intranet technology allows an organization to choose between a wide variety of software, computers, and operating systems. Users get most of the information they access through a Web browser such as Netscape. This enables organization members to distribute information, collect reports and data internally, participate in conferences, and access important documentation easily and uniformly. Of course, groupware and database applications are still necessary to serve these functions, but the intranet provides the same reliable, multimedia-oriented, user-access interface that exists on the World-Wide Web.

Some current intranet-management software includes:

3.5 Future Trends

Future trends in multimedia technology will increasingly revolve around distributed-multimedia systems, cross-platform user interfaces, and networking architectures and bandwidth. While storage costs, processing costs, and ever more powerful application costs will decrease, the true strength of multimedia technology will be seen in how it adapts to networked environments.

We will begin to see a convergence of traditionally separate media such as personal computers, video, television, cellular telecommunications, LANs, and mail. Over the next five to seven years many of the controlling entities of these media will begin to see the possibility that technology offers for branching out into other media. Partnerships will follow, and eventually services will begin to be bundled into (one hopes) standardized packages, which may become accessible through multiple platforms. It may, for instance, become easy to watch CNN or a movie in a small window of your desktop computer while you work, and equally simple to work on a spreadsheet or write email in a small window of your television while you watch a pay-per-view movie.

Multimedia technology will be greatly affected by emerging paradigms in the hard-science side of computing and networking. Object-oriented programming languages and operating systems, and distributed client-server technologies will begin to provide more powerful and flexible options to end-users of multimedia systems. Group collaboration will be made possible on a wider scale across wider distances. Multimedia objects will grow "smarter," able to interact with and act on other objects. We see the infancy of this phenomenon in the dynamic and interactive Websites using Java and ActiveX. Storage will take on a new personality as object-oriented databases emerge that can handle multimedia information, organize it, and make it searchable.

The near future of multimedia will include not just an upward spiking of the technology, but an outward diffusion of the technology into multi-user environments. Given the way the WWW has become the Internet for many users, it is not pushing matters to say that the future of multimedia is networking, and the future of networking is multimedia.

3.6 References on Multimedia and Related Topics

3.6.1 Online Resources and Tutorials

This is an online tutorial of the history of the Internet, divided into the following categories:

Origins of the Internet
The Initial Internetting Concepts
Proving the Ideas
Transition to Widespread Infrastructure
The Role of Documentation
Formation of the Broad Community
Commercialization of the Technology
History of the Future

This site is very useful for those students who need a quick tutorial on the Internet.

This site is an outline of an undergraduate course in multimedia at Simon Frasier University, British Columbia, Canada. The course covers the history of multimedia, multimedia issues, applications and data, as well as networking and distributed-multimedia systems. This site provides a comprehensive overview of a comprehensive course and is one of the best all-around multimedia-education sites I found.

This is the homepage of Randall Packer, former director of multimedia studies at San Francisco State University, now lecturing at the University of California, Berkeley. The site gives the syllabus of his History of Multimedia course, which focuses on art and socio-cultural history rather than simply the technology and practical applications of multimedia technology.

This Web page gives a syllabus and information on the Multimedia in Education course at Southern Oregon State College. The site also provides a good set of links to other resources.

This site is a collection of object-oriented multimedia models, including:

Damsel Dynamic Multimedia Specification Language
MET++ Multimedia Application Framework
LMDMLayered Multimedia Data Model
MMEthe object-oriented Multimedia Toolkit
PREMOPresentation Environment for Multimedia Objects
MHEGMultimedia and Hypermedia Expert Group (MHEG-5, MHEG-6)
OMFOpen Media Framework

The site provides very technical, development-oriented links and is probably beyond the scope of those not familiar with multimedia technology.

The Tapeless Studio - The Magazine of Audio Recording on the PC. This site is a commercial online magazine on all things relating to digital audio in multimedia.

Site of the Berkom GLUE (Global User Environment) Project, which envisages the development of a multimedia-presentation environment, combining client and server components. Multimedia information is interchanged utilizing the MHEG 5 standard.

Web site of the MIDI homepage. This site provides complete reference materials for new and experienced MIDI users.

This site is home of Open Sound System (OSS), the first attempt at unifying the digital-audio architecture for UNIX. OSS is a set of device drivers that provide a uniform API across all the major UNIX architectures. It supports Sound Blaster-compatible sound cards, which can be plugged into any UNIX workstation supporting the ISA or EISA bus architecture. OSS also supports workstations with on-board digital-audio hardware.

Site of the Interactive Multimedia Association's DVD initiative, designed to inform and promote DVD technology to the public. "Anticipating the impending launch of DVD and DVD-ROM, the IMA is developing a multipoint program to support the orderly and profitable market introduction of this new medium. This program has three main objectives:

"1. Facilitate the successful introduction of DVD and DVD-ROM into the marketplace.

"2. Promote widespread consumer and developer confidence in the new medium.

"3. Provide a legal 'safe haven' for member companies to cooperate and collaborate."

This site is an online guide to multimedia educational applications, including books and journals, online resources, and seminars.

This site provides users with an excellent overview of CD technologies, from CD-DA to Video-CD, and describes the place of each format in the development of the technology.

A comprehensive Canadian multimedia guide, providing users with online tutorials, development tools, and links to other resources.

This excellent site gives the user a listing of multimedia standards and links to further pages giving detailed specifications of each standard. It is an excellent resource for doing cross-standard comparisons.

A site devoted to multimedia authoring tools and resources directed primarily at Apple computer users.

Site of the International Multimedia Teleconferencing Consortium, Inc. (IMTC). The mission of IMTC is to bring together all organizations involved in the development of interactive, multimedia-teleconferencing products and services to help create and promote the adoption of industry-wide interoperability standards.

This site provides information on the QuickCam.

3.6.2 Other References

Agnew, Palmer W.; Kellerman, Anne. Distributed Multimedia. Addison-Wesley: Reading, MA, 1996.

"Brief History of Multimedia." Online. World-Wide Web. 15 February 1997. Available from:

Desmarais, Norman. Multimedia on the PC. McGraw-Hill: New York, 1994.

Dodds, Philip V. W. Digital Multimedia Cross Industry Guide. Focal Press: Boston, 1995.

Kagan, Richard S. "Integrated Voice/Data Networks." In: Bartee, Thomas, ed. Data Communications, Networks, and Systems. Carmel, Indiana: SAMS, 1992. 153.

Larson, Jennifer. "What is Multimedia?" PC Novice, June 1994: 34-37.

Rizzo, John. "Intranet 101." Computer Currents, March 1997: 25-29.

Tittel, Ed; James, Steve. HTML For Dummies. IDG Books: Foster City, CA, 1996.

Wodaski, Ron. Multimedia Madness! SAMS: Indianapolis, 1994.

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Go to the over-all Table of Contents in Section One of this Report.