Special Report on Multimedia: Breathing new life into world of the desktop: George Cole finds that television and computer technologies are converging

MULTIMEDIA is transforming the desktop computer from a boring text-based machine into one which also displays sound, graphics, moving video images and animations. And some computers will soon offer video phones and speech recognition systems which respond to verbal commands.

'Multimedia will change the way many of us work, train, learn and entertain ourselves on a computer', said Graham Brown-Martin, chairman of Cambridge-based Electronic Sound and Pictures.

The first desktop machines displayed text on a green screen and users had to type commands on a keyboard. The launch of computers such as the Apple Macintosh changed everything with high quality graphics and an operating system which used on-screen pictures and a pointing device rather than typed commands.

Now, television and computer technologies are converging. The process began when companies began marketing video and sound boards which enable computers to link up to a VCR or video disc player and mix graphics and text with moving video images.

Other boards allow users to record and store sound and video images in a computer and manipulate them. With a suitably equipped computer, an executive can now record a verbal message and attach it to a spreadsheet or add video pictures to a word processed document. These multimedia presentations are known as 'desk top video'.

For a long time, users of IBM and compatible computers were in danger of being left behind in the multimedia revolution because the machines use the old and clumsy MS-DOS operating system. But the situation changed when Microsoft launched its Windows 3.0 system, which makes IBM computers work more like an Apple Macintosh. Last year, Microsoft introduced a multimedia extension for Windows and has now launched Windows 3.1, which has multimedia features built into it. Microsoft is also the founder of the Multimedia PC (MPC) consortium which includes Philips, NEC, Olivetti and Fujitsu. MPC defines a minimum standard for multimedia computers and various companies have launched MPC hardware, software and upgrade kits. IBM has launched its own range of Personal System 2 (PS/2) multimedia computers called Ultimedia, and last week announced three new Ultimedia models with improved graphics and features.

Apple does not like the term 'multimedia computer' and prefers to use 'media integration': 'We think multimedia should be a natural part of computing, rather than a bolt-on feature', said Pamela Shure, Apple UK's Product Markets Manager. Last year, Apple introduced QuickTime, an upgrade system which enables many Apple Macintosh computers to play and edit sound, video and animations. QuickTime is a software-based system, so users do not have to buy additional hardware to run it. Microsoft is set to launch a similar system for IBM-compatible machines known as Audio Video Interleave (AVI).

Multimedia is also changing the face of computer software and many programs are now being stored on CD-Roms rather than floppy discs. A CD-Rom can hold as much information as 1,000 floppy discs. For example, the multimedia version of Microsoft Works includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database and more than 40 sound and animation movies which help people understand how to use the software. Media Design Interactive's CD-Rom Dictionary of the Living World includes 2,500 text entries, 1,000 pictures, 100 animations and 100 video clips. The computer company Sun has replaced its bulky instruction manuals with CD-Roms.

Multimedia is also moving the video phone out of the science fiction novel and into the office. Olivetti and British Telecom recently announced the PCC - Personal Communications Computer. This combines a multimedia computer with a video camera and the digital telephone system called ISDN. PCC users will be able to conduct live video conversations, use a multimedia electronic mail service, send faxes, transfer files and even write messages with a light pen and electronic white board.

Olivetti has joined forces with Thomson to develop the PC-TV - a desktop computer with a built-in television tuner, teletext decoder and video recorder. The PCC and PC-TV are expected to be launched next year. Also on the horizon are portable multimedia computers - Apple and Toshiba are developing a hand-held multimedia machine with a built-in CD-Rom drive.

Computer companies are planning to launch multimedia machines we can talk to. Earlier this year, Microsoft took out a licence to use a speech recognition system developed by the American company Dragon Systems. The technology will be used in a Windows Sound System called Voice Pilot. This will allow users to create dozens of voice commands, including some which will tell a computer to open or save a file.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past