Monday, May 02, 2016

Microsoft Encarta Memories

As a graphic designer, I'm always interested in the development of digital art & technology. I saw this article about early computer graphics that caught my attention. 


While watching the accompanying video, by prescient computer scientist John Whitney from 1968, I began to think about my early experiences with computers as a teenager. I'm not sure exactly when my family bought our first computer (early 1990's?), but it was crucial to my understanding of digital technology.

I remember we bought it from some sparsely-decorated showroom, with random electronic devices sitting around. We were in Georgia visiting relatives. My Uncle Hank was good with electronics, so he was helping us pick out a machine. It ended up being a disaster, since the computer had all kinds of problems & wasn't really working. My Uncle spent most of our visit trying to fix it & figure it out.

Eventually, we got another computer that used DOS & Microsoft Windows 3.1. One of the things that showed me the power of digital technology at that time was the CD-ROM encyclopedia that came with the system, Microsoft Encarta.

As a kid, I loved reading books, & especially encyclopedias or other sources of random information. The idea that all this knowledge could be accessible from a disc was awesome. This was waaay before the Internet as we know it, so the CD-ROM was the best way of offering content to the user digitally.

Even more impressive was the ability to experience media- such as pictures, audio, or video. I remember showing my parents the short, low resolution clips of the moon landing & one of John F Kennedy's speeches. I was trying to show them how great these tools were, using events from their generation. Thankfully, they've always encouraged my interest in computers & learning, in general.

Microsoft Encarta was one of those influences that shaped my understanding of the world and the possibilities of digital media. Here is a video that explores the software & brought back some memories of using the CD encyclopedia..

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