Education And Debate

ABC of Medical Computing: CD ROMS, MULTIMEDIA, AND OPTICAL STORAGE SYSTEMS

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7006.675 (Published 09 September 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:675
  1. Andrew Millman,
  2. Nicholas Lee

    CD ROMs (compact disc read only memory) have emerged as one of the most useful technologies of the 1990s. They look identical to the familiar audio compact disc, but store large amounts of computer data rather than music. Fortunately, they are as easy to use as their audio counterparts. Prices start at just a few pounds, although subscriptions to some of the medical databases can be expensive (about £1000 a year).

    To access these titles you need a CD ROM drive in your computer. If necessary, these drives are easy to install, but they are increasingly found as a standard fitting on many new computers.

    CD ROM drive.

    Text only disks

    Each CD ROM has a capacity of over 600 megabytes—equivalent to more than 400 floppy disks—and can store up to 300000 pages of text. They are therefore ideal for storing articles published in medical journals. The disc shown opposite contains every article published in the BMJ over the past seven years (over 17000). Another disc in the same series contains every article published over the past year in the Lancet, BMJ, Annals of Internal Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, and JAMA. SilverPlatter produces several text based CD ROMs covering a wide range of medical topics. For example, the AIDSLINE disc contains over 99000 records from 1980 to the present taken from over 3000 journals, plus government reports, letters, technical reports, abstracts and papers from meetings, monographs, special publications, and theses. Any of these discs can easily be searched for a specific word or phrase. Any relevant articles that you find can then be printed out or viewed on the screen.

    Macmillan's Medical Compact Library.

    Multimedia

    More complex CD ROM titles containing a rich mixture of text, colour photographs, video clips, animations, and stereo sound are now being released. These are known as …

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