years' Geographic journey on CD-ROM
EVERY year, about a hundred men and women would stand atop Mount
Katahdin in central Maine, resting their tired feet, taking in the
cool air, and congratulating themselves for having hiked the Appalachian
Trail. Stretching for thousands of kilometres over 14 American states,
the trail begins in the southern state of Georgia and ends in central
Maine. It takes about six months to complete it.
I first read about this fascinating voyage in a National Geographic
magazine article entitled A Tunnel Through Time: The Appalachian
Trail, in February 1987.
The breathtaking pictures and fluid writing so captivated my imagination
that for many years after, I dreamt about walking the trail, convinced
that my life would be incomplete until I, too, stood on the peak
of Mount Katahdin.
While this dream has lessened its hold on me, the allure of the
magazine has not, with the desire of owning every issue growing
This addiction is now partly satisfied with the release of The Complete
National Geographic CD-ROM, a set of 30 CD-ROMs of every article,
photograph and map published from 1888 to 1996.
There must be quite a number of such addicts here as the 1,000 sets
already brought into the region by AASoft, a subsidiary of Acer
Computer and exclusive distributor of the CD-ROMs in Asean, are
expected to sell out before Christmas.
Mr Brent Teo, the company's marketing manager said: ''About 700
to 800 sets will be sold in Singapore alone.''
He said another 1,000 sets are on their way here, and they are expected
to be snapped up by early next year.
The company is also working with stockists to promote the product
among by offering two other Geographic CD-ROMs for free with each
purchase of the compilation, which retails at S$299 before GST.
The set comes in a beautifully-lacquered box. Sitting snugly in
the green velvet-lined interior, the 10 chronologically and clearly-
labelled CD cases await discovery.
Before I laid my hands on the set, I already had a ''must-see''
list. The write-up on the city of Philadelphia, which I remember
vividly to be my first encounter with the magazine, was one. The
profile on Singapore, published in the early '80s, was another.
But when I took delivery of the set, I reached instinctively for
the first issue as I realised I knew little about the magazine's
Installing the software program that displays the hybrid CD-ROMs,
which are Macintosh and Window-compatible, is straightforward. It
does not matter which disc you decide to start your journey with.
The system software that drives the search engine and navigational
tools is on every CD-ROM, and it needs to be installed only once.
The 9,000 articles or 185,000 pages from 1,245 issues, are fully
indexed and searchable by date, issue, cover, subject, writer and
photographer. All advertisements, which are excellent entertainment
in themselves, are also included.
If you do not have a favourite in mind, I strongly recommend you
check out the first disc. In it is the manifesto on which the National
Geographic Society was founded, and which still guides it today.
You will also discover that the magazine started out as an occasional
journal and became a monthly publication only in 1896. Also, the
famous yellow border was first used only in the February 1910 issue.
The handy search button throws up an easy-to-use interface that
acts as a gateway to the rest of the essays and pictures.
I typed in ''Singapore'', and within seconds, an index of all the
stories about the Republic appeared.
The first article - Singapore, Crossroads Of The East - appeared
in the March 1926 issue and describes this place as a ''pirate-infested
The articles can be enlarged and viewed in their original layouts.
However, the text is not always legible.
One other shortcoming is that the enlargement ratio cannot be adjusted,
which can be problematic for those with smaller monitors.
On the plus side, printing out the pages, either in colour or black
and white, is a snap; you can even rotate the pages to fit the size
of the paper you are printing on.
For a collection of this size, the navigation is delightfully smooth
and straightforward. You can move from page to page within a story,
jump from article to article, month-to- month or year-to-year.
You can also ''bookmark'' your favourite pages, a feature Internet
users will be familiar with. Also, connecting to the World Wide
Web from the CD-ROM is just a click away.
Additional and new material, which could not be included in the
30 CD-ROMs, is presented as part of the official Geographic website.
The National Geographic magazine has long been viewed as a wholesome,
educational publication suitable for the family. This compilation
is a useful supplement to the current issues.
School librarians, in particular, should put it at the top of their