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The International Business Machines Corporation this month contributes to the events marking next fall's 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to the Americas by unveiling an ambitious multimedia product chronicling the expedition's impact on European and indigenous cultures.

The computer firm will hold its first public demonstration of "Columbus: Encounter, Discovery, and Beyond" in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15.

The CD-ROM-based product, which is aimed at the K-12 market, contains some 180 hours of still pictures, computer graphics, and video footage on several compact and laser-disks, including reproductions of original documents drafted by the Italian explorer as well as interviews with prominent scholars, including a 14th generation descendant of Columbus.

The project is the culmination of several years of research, not only into Columbus and his voyages, but into concurrent changes in European and Native American culture that it precipitated.

The interactive system, centered on I.B.M.'S PS/2 microcomputer, is designed to allow students and teachers to navigate through a highly variable analysis of the event.

Development of the project was directed by Robert Abel, a Hollywood filmmaker whose credits include creating the special effects for the motion pictures "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Tron."

He has also won 30 Clio awards for his work in computergraphic-enhanced television commercials.

Such a background, i.B.M. spokesmen said, made Mr. Abel admirably suited for the task of reaching contemporary students with educationally significant information by harnessing the techniques made common cultural currency by the "MTV generation."

In another development, LB.M. and Apple Computer Inc. last week signed a pact under which they will launch a joint venture to develop new forms of personal-computer software, including multimedia applications.

Under the terms of the pact, a new project called Taligent, which will employ both Apple and LB.M. engineers, will develop new computer languages designed to greatly simplify computer programming for novices.

A second group, called Kaleida, will employ between 150 and 200 engineers to develop new multimedia products.

Observers of the educational computing market, as well as spokesmen for the two companies, agree that new products are several years from the market. And, given the time it takes to fashion educational applications from new products, such applications are even further in the future, observers believe.--P.W.

Vol. 11, Issue 06, Page 12

Published in Print: October 9, 1991, as Technology Column
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