The World on a Screen

Interactive multimedia could bring a universe of words, sounds and pictures to our fingertips, but today's systems are still a jumble

Some technologies seem fated to succeed. The telephone. The automobile. The electronic computer. Each offered advantages over its predecessors so compelling that failure, in retrospect, seems almost unimaginable.

Now the same aura of inevitability has attached itself, at least in some circles, to a technology known as interactive multimedia. It is a broad term -- and one that most certainly needs a catchier moniker -- that encompasses a variety of systems for bringing information, music, voice, animation, photos and video images together on a screen in people's living rooms and workplaces. Multimedia represents the coalescence of three key communications technologies: television,...

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