Smile] This will have you in a spin: Photo CD will make the family album a thing of the past, says Steve Homer

IMAGINE THIS. Your children have just got married. One month after the wedding you send Auntie Hannah in Australia, Uncle Clive in India and Grandma Joanna in America a special present. This will look like a compact disc, except it will be coloured gold, not silver.

On that disc will be a little bit of family history - a special message in pictures, words and music. There may be pictures of the bride and groom growing up, of the wedding and, perhaps, of the honeymoon.

Once loaded into a new type of CD player, the disc will come alive on the television screen. You could watch the pictures as a slide show, with a soundtrack prepared by the happy couple, or you could simply browse through the images. While wedding videos offer a fuller picture of the day, it is more difficult to pick the bits you really want to watch.

Consumers should find a wealth of uses for this new technology. Businesses are already spotting opportunities, which should help to drive the price down rapidly.

But photographs are wonderful ways of capturing images. So why do we need new and complicated technology? One answer can be found in my top drawer (and many similar drawers around the country, I'm sure).

In my misspent youth I travelled around India and South-east Asia for two years. I am, though I say it myself, a pretty sharp photographer. I now have more than 1,200 images on slides and prints, which I have shown to no one for the past seven years. Photo CD, developed jointly by Kodak and Philips, could be the answer.

Photo CD players will play ordinary CDs as well as Photo CDs. Several interactive CD players, such as Philips' CD-I machine, will also play Photo CDs, as will IBM-compatible and Apple computers with the right CD ROM drives.

Domestic consumers will take their film into a developer, and along with their usual prints they will order a Photo CD disc. It will cost about pounds 4.99 to buy a blank Photo CD, and pounds 8.75 to process 24 pictures on to it. Later on, they can have images from another film added on to the existing disc. They will also be able to transfer old negatives and slides to Photo CD. This will be more expensive, at about 50p per image with a pounds 1.75 handling charge. Each disc will be able to hold between 100 and 125 digitised images.

The images will be stored in 'master' format, which means they will reproduce the high-quality image of a 35mm negative or slide. You will be able to select and copy photographs from this master disc digitally (which means faultlessly) and store them in a lower resolution suitable for display on a television screen. In this format, you can store up to 800 images on one disc.

The more sophisticated facets of Photo CD should be easily understood by users familiar with computers. For the rest, help is likely to be at hand once Photo CD is developed for mass-market consumption.

You can have the disc tell the Photo CD player the order in which you want the pictures shown, for how long, and even display text on the television screen . You can also ask viewers what they would like to see next. On top of all this, you can include a soundtrack of narrative and music.

From here, it is just a small step before an intelligent electronic system is developed that allows you to create and test your own interactive 'disc' in the shop. The final disc can be created with the push of a button.

In stores such as Boots or Dixons, and perhaps in specialised Photo CD shops, you will be able to create your own interactive discs.

When you have created your masterpiece, having copies made should be relatively inexpensive since the data is simply copied from one disc to another. All you should pay for is the extra blank, the handling costs and the processor's profits. This currently costs an unforgivable pounds 24.99.

But all this cleverness will be of no use if Auntie Hannah in Australia has no Photo CD player. Photo CDs will not play on ordinary CD music systems. The chances are, however, that within five years either Auntie Hannah or her neighbour will own one.

After only three months on sale, more than 100,000 units have been sold worldwide, Kodak says. At present the cheapest Photo CD player costs pounds 299.99 compared with pounds 150- pounds 200 for a standard CD player. Within a year or two it is likely that Photo CD will add a premium of only about pounds 50 to a CD player, and will be built into many hi-fi systems.

The market for Photo CD will be partly determined by the availability of pre-recorded software. Publishers are already considering the new format. One example might be 'Song Birds of the UK'. A single disc could hold details of hundreds of birds, including a indexes and cross references, thumbnail images and larger photos of the bird, along with descriptions of where they are found and a recording of their songs. Travel, recipe and gardening discs should be cheap to publish.

Holiday companies could show you your destination, hairdressers could let you browse through 100 different styles, and supermarkets could use a weekly disc to promote special offers.

Photo CD is already being used in medicine, data storage, engineering and to develop mail-order catalogues and training manuals. In time, there will no doubt be obituary discs of the famous. As an experiment in the US, Kodak has recorded the recollections of a 100-year-old woman along with photographs, and already there are thoughts of creating Photo CD family trees.

While there are many more sophisticated multi-media products on the market, the great advantage of Photo CD is that it is easy to understand and offers customers an immediate return.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
Sport
footballFollow the latest news from tonight's friendly
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
All the people: Graham Coxon, Damon Albarn, Alex James and Dave Rowntree
musicThe Magic Whip, album review
News
people
News
Presenter Jack Nicholson and George Clooney pose in the press room after 'Argo' won the trophy for Best Picture during the 85th Annual Academy Awards on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood.
people
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
Scholars left shaken after ultraviolet light reveals faces staring at them from medieval manuscripts
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell