Waiting for a recordable CD-ROM disk to appearQ. Before I...

COMPUTER Q & A

February 08, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Waiting for a recordable CD-ROM disk to appear

Q. Before I buy a CD-ROM drive, I'm waiting for a recordable version. Why is it taking so long for a recordable CD-ROM disk to become available?

A. You're missing the point of what CD-ROM is all about. It was never intended to be a recording product.

The CD-ROM disk, which can store hundreds of megabytes of information, is a publishing medium. It's perfect for storing reference works, such as encyclopedias, and photographic images.

More and more software and data products are becoming available on CD-ROM. In most cases, the information has always been out there, but the number of floppy disks required to market the data made it impractical to publish.

For example, a telephone directory that contains the name, address and phone number of every person in the United States fits easily on one CD-ROM disk. The same product would require more than 1,000 floppy disks.

With CD-ROM, the barrier is broken. Single CD-ROM disks contain everything from the complete works of Shakespeare to company operation manuals. Coupled with the computer's ability to search and cross-reference, information on a CD-ROM can be found in seconds.

Another benefit of the CD-ROM is security: Data cannot be altered.

Publishing a CD-ROM product can be costly and, until recently, required a room filled with highly specialized equipment and trained technicians. Now, Philips Consumer Electronics Co., the creator of the compact disc, has introduced a recordable CD-ROM drive, with which you can publish your own CD-ROM disks.

The CDD521CW desktop CD recorder uses a special recordable CD-ROM disk that can be read by ordinary CD-ROM players. The CDD521CW allows you to publish up to 680 megabytes of data on one CD-ROM.

The CD-ROM can be recorded on just once. After it has been recorded, the CD-ROM looks and acts like a standard CD-ROM disk and can be accessed by any ordinary CD-ROM drive.

The CDD521CW desktop CD recorder costs $7,995, but, with publishing companies charging hundreds of dollars to publish a single CD-ROM, the drive could pay for itself if you intend to publish lots of data.

An IBM-compatible version is available, with a Macintosh model to be released soon.

Philips Consumer Electronics Co.

(800) 722-6224 or (615) 475-8869

What is my computer's 'wallpaper'?

Q. I heard some of my computer-oriented friends discussing how they applied "wallpaper" to their computer. I didn't wish to appear ignorant, so I didn't say anything. But it has been bothering me, and I really would like to know what they were talking about.

A. Wallpaper is a term used to describe a computer's background pattern, also called the desktop. Against this background, the graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced "gooey"), displays little pictures known as icons that represent computer functions.

Every Apple Macintosh uses a GUI. On the Mac, a trash-can icon is used to throw away files. IBM-compatible computer users can choose from several GUIs, such as Windows or OS/2 2.0.

GUIs display their icons and other images against some sort of patterned or colored background.

The default desktop color on the Macintosh is gray. Neutral gray can become boring after awhile.

We personalize our automobiles by selecting colors and options. Wallpaper reflects that same mind-set. It's a way to express our individuality in a world of mundanely identical computers.

Wallpaper can be simple patterns or realistic images that look like crumpled newspaper, veined marble, wood finishes, rusted metal -- you name it. If it can be displayed, it can be wallpaper. Budweiser labels, dollar bills, cartoon characters, photos of famous faces -- the list is endless.

If this sounds intriguing, and you own a Macintosh, you can buy Wallpaper from a company called Thought I Could. The program allows you to install and display hundreds of patterns. If you don't like the supplied images, you can create your own design for the desktop using Wallpaper's built-in editor.

If you see an interesting image that's displayed by some other program, Wallpaper allows you to capture any portion of the screen and convert it into a wallpaper pattern. And if you find yourself wanting even more, there's More Wallpaper, which offers an additional 594 patterns.

It's endless. Thought I Could President Linda Kaplan told me that the company plans several more releases of patterns and textures.

Wallpaper sells for $59.99; More Wallpaper for $39.99. A black-and-white Zebra Edition, containing patterns for non-color Macs, sells for $59.99.

Thought I Could

(212) 673-9724

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(Craig Crossman is the host of a weekly radio show, Computer America, heard nationwide. Send questions in care of Business Monday, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Please include your phone number.)

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