>> Saturday, January 6, 2007
The world on your TV. Using these words the world was prepared to a new phenomenon, something CD-i was made for: Encyclopedias on TV. Somehow this feels like a prequel to the Internet. Now digital encyclopedias like Encarta are of much less interest to the main public thanks to the web. 15 Years ago, times were different. It was the first time I heard of Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. This encyclopedia was bundled with every CD-i player. Like Nintendo bundled its console with Super Mario Bros, Philips chose to highlight the Multimedia spect of CD-i releasing Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia with it. Now say what you want, this was an excellent title. Back in 1991/1992, when this encyclopedia was released, there was no Digital Video Cartridge available, so the way they put everything on the disc was amazing to me. I was really fascinated by it and I was able to browse for hours through its contents. CD-i hooked me just because it was more than just games. I really wondered why the majority of people thought different about this ;)
However, 1995 was a great year for Philips Media and SPC Vision releasing the brilliant Philips Media Encyclopedia. Now this is a dutch title, released in Belgium as "Standaard Encyclopedia". But the engine is made so clever, with maximum use of digital video, this feels like the max they were able to get out of CD-i. The menu system was based on CD-i's dream technology: Seamless branching. Some CD-i developers will remember the trouble to get this right on CD-i, and this title was no different. The main menu was supposed to go in a seamless loop, but the engineers at Philips weren't able to get it right in the end!
Thankfully for people abroad, Compton's NewMedia also released a second version of Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, much less known than the original from 1992. The new title was completely updated and was enhanced using the Digital Video Cartridge. If you ever see a copy, I can highly recommend it. Also, I was surprised to see they also released a version for Sega CD. Sega 'stole' more ideas from CD-i like implementing a "digital video cartridge" with the Saturn, to allow VideoCD playability. However, the release of Compton's Encyclopedia was a clever move, and with a wink to CD-i that games and reference can go hand in hand. Unfortunately, after the internet hyped after 1996, console versions of encyclopedias were over. Compton continued with a 1998 and 2000 version, after that they were included with Brittanica's Encyclopedia. They still offer a paper version of Compton's encyclopedia (version 2007), but at a price. You better track down a copy of the CD-i revised edition from 1995. Did you know this version sold initially for 100 dollars! That was pretty expensive for a 1-disc title, although it didn't top the price of the dutch Philips media encyclopedia: 175 dollars!
In Holland Philips offered to exchange your (old) paper encyclopedia books for the new Philips encyclopedia! This was one of the great times of Superclub, another story for next time!