Electronic Yearbook

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While the yearbook staff at South Eugene (Ore.) High School assembles the photographs, advertisements, and layouts for the print version of the school's annual, a separate staff is hoarding electronic images, collecting sound bites, and videotaping school events to compile an electronic counterpart to the high-school standby.

Using about $30,000 worth of donated computers, software, and cameras, 14 students are preparing the Electronic Eugenean, which school officials say will be the first yearbook ever pressed onto a compact disk.

The project is a novel use of cd-rom--or compact disk-read only memory--a technology that is similar to the process used to produce audio cd recordings.

Computer makers tout cd-rom as an infinitely more flexible medium for storing data than the ubiquitous floppy disk. Not only does each compact disk have approximately 1,000 times the storage capacity of a floppy, but the compact disk also can be used to store still and video images as well as text.

Thomas G. Layton, the school's computer specialist and the adviser for the electronic yearbook project, says he proposed the idea to major computer and electronics firms late last year, hoping to capitalize on their efforts to market "multimedia" technology, in which computers integrate sound, video, and text into a single presentation.

Mr. Layton persuaded Apple Computer Inc., Canon Inc., and Jostens Learning Corporation to back the project by arguing that "what people need is a familiar icon to introduce them to multimedia."

But tradition will not be discarded immediately--the cd-rom version will be inserted in a pocket in the back of the print version.

And some audio material will be pressed onto the disk so that it can be played on an ordinary compact-disk player.

Those decisions were made largely because the fledgling cd-rom technology is so scarce and expensive. Currently, the equipment and software needed to view the disk costs about $5,000.

But, Mr. Layton says, his students are producing the Electronic Eugenean with an eye to the future.

"Our idea is that five years from now it'll take $1,500 worth of equipment," he says. "And that's about the time that these kids will want to take a trip down memory lane."--pw

Vol. 09, Issue 39

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