Multimedia: Past, Present, and Potential
Upon being asked for an example of what "interactive multimedia" is, what would a common response be? Video games might come to mind. Though this is a valid response and a ready example of multimedia, it is important not to limit it to solely entertainment. I have come to believe that most people pigeonhole multimedia because it encompasses such a broad spectrum that it is hard to understand otherwise. The first step in understanding multimedia, and hence dispelling such misconceptions, is defining what exactly multimedia is. From there, one must learn of the past, present, and future of the medium in order to gain true comprehension.
Meriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines interactive multimedia as follows, repsectively:
"Main Entry: in·ter·ac·tive
1 : mutually or reciprocally active
2 : of, relating to, or being a two-way electronic communication system (as a telephone, cable television, or a computer) that involves a user's orders (as for information or merchandise) or responses (as to a poll)
- in·ter·ac·tive·ly adverb
"Main Entry: mul·ti·me·dia
: using, involving, or encompassing several media <a multimedia approach to learning>
- multimedia noun"
So, from this we can gather, that interactive multimedia is anything that is an assemblage of various media that can respond to our actions to it, not necessarily only video games. Now, to further understand multimedia, a study of the subject’s past, present, and future is in order.
The foundation of current multimedia is of course computer technology, and computers were not invented with entertainment purposes in mind. According to Jeremy Meyer’s writing on computers in A Brief History of Computers (www.softlord.com/comp/), the origin of today’s computers is largely unknown but actually quite a long and important history. He supports his stance by giving a timeline of the evolution of the computing devices, dating all the way back to the abacus, roughly 2000 years old. However, for my intents and purposes, I shall begin with his descriptions of the mechanical computers, as it is the earliest reference point at which computers begin to resemble what we are familiar with today. Meyer states that Mechanical computers have actually existed since about 1642, but until around 1850’s, and were considered little more than projects for eccentric mathematicians and tinkers.
After the 1850’s mechanical digital computers were used to aid engineers in calculations involving mathematical physics and differential calculus for the construction of steamships, textile mills, bridges, and railroads, among other things. Then, Meyer documents the progression of the more practical and wide-spread use of computers, such as the U.S. Census Bureau in the 1890’s because of the punch cards computers used for input, output, and...