What is Multimedia?

          Computers have become an integral part of our lives today. Their invasion into every sphere of our life has made them indispensable for us. And the field of media is no exception. Multimedia is the outcome of a sophisticated blending of both visual and audio communications. This explanation is just the tip of the iceberg, the fact remains that it is the integration of various communication networks into our desk that produces amazing results.

          But what is multimedia as we understand it today? Multimedia software combines two or more media for presentation or analysis. It is the result of a co-ordinated work of video, audio and graphics. The earlier personal computers were monomedia as they displayed only one medium. The monomedia computers could not play sounds when they displayed the text on screen. A platform for multimedia emerged with the gradual development of newer technologies that extended the power and scope of personal computers.

          Now one fundamental question arises: what specific functions does a multimedia computer perform? A multimedia computer can recreate the sounds of musical instruments and also it can playback recorded sounds. It can show pictures and movies on the monitor. It can also access information stored on a computer disc. Recorded sounds, movies, pictures and texts have been around for years but what a multimedia computer does is to intertwine these things and produce a combined effect of all these mediums. It can show animated images and create graphic designs. The computer based learning is another gift of multimedia. Learning becomes easier and quicker when the text is supplemented with audiovisual assistance and for this reason it has become an effective mode of education for children as well as adults. The text on the screen is supported by audio instructions and visual aids which add to the grasping ability and memory retention of the students.

          All multimedia programs include six common elements – texts, pictures, movies, animation, sound and increased control. 

         Basing on the nature of interaction with the user, multimedia is divided into two types: Non-interactive and Interactive. In Non-interactive programs we simply receive information presented to us which are prepared in advance and processed by the computer with little or no intervention from the user. The images, sound and animation etc. are projected from the desktop directly onto the large screen, using a computer projection system or can be just seen on the computer screen. On the other hand, Interactive multimedia is meant for individual use that is, the user is in direct communication with the computer, receiving immediate responses to the input data. This type of multimedia usage is more common now-a-days.

          Multimedia requires storage of high quality images (graphics), texts, animations, sound, music and video for which high capacity storage medium is needed. The use of floppy disks is of no help though they are convenient to distribute. For this reason, multimedia information is usually stored in CD-ROMs (Compact Discs-Read Only Memory). A CD-ROM can contain upto 600 megabytes of data in it. For example, the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in all volumes can be stored in just one CD-ROM which can be carried in one’s pocket.