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In this chapter, you will learn:

  • About the fundamental workings of multimedia technology
  • About many multimedia standards and how they have helped shape the industry
  • How to support many multimedia devices, including CD-ROM drives, sound cards, and DVD drives

The ability of PCs to create output in such a vast array of media- audio, video, and animation, as well as text and graphics-has, turned PCs into multimedia machines. The multimedia computer offers much to take advantage of, from video conferencing for the executive to teaching the alphabet to four-year-olds. This chapter examines multimedia devices, what they can do, how they work, and how to support them.

multimedia technology

The goal of multimedia technology is to create or reproduce lifelike representations for audio, video, and animation. Remember that computers store data digitally, and ultimately as a stream of only two numbers: 0 and 1. In contrast, sights and sounds have an infinite number of variations. The challenge of multimedia technology is to bridge these two worlds. The key to doing this is twofold: reduce this infinite number of variations down to a finite few, and record as many as needed to reproduce an approximation of the original sight or sound, without overloading the capacity of the computer to hold data. This twofold challenge requires (1) a lot of storage capacity and (2) the ability to process large quantities of data at high speed and at the lowest cost possible. This chapter focuses on how the industry is attempting to meet the challenge.

When studying multimedia technology, look for these two features: the need for large amounts of storage capacity and the ability of a computer to handle this large volume at high speeds, including sophisticated methods of sampling sight and sound. Also, as you study, look for the attempts of the industry to standardize methods of sampling and storage so that different types of software and different types of hardware are as interchangeable

Intel MMX Pentium CPU. When the hardware technology arrived, more software became available to use the technology. In the future, you can expect continuing improvements in multimedia hardware, which will continue to lead to the development of new software.

Evidence of the inroads multimedia technology is making into the business market is the introduction of the Pentium II CPU, which is marketed as a high-end CPU for servers, yet includes SSE, which is a technology designed to improve on MMX multimedia processing.

Multimedia Fundamentals

Before you study multimedia technology, examine for a moment the special challenge confronting multimedia technology: reproducing something that is continuously changing (referred to as analog, as discussed below) such as sights and sounds, on a PC, which is incapable of making continuous changes because it is digital. It has only two states and can only change from one state to another, with no gradations in between.

We have been comparing the word ‘analog’ to ‘digital’, but what exactly do we mean by that? Analog comes from the same word as ‘analogous’, and means ‘the same’, implying smooth transition that is continuous or lacking distinctly defined gradations. “Digital” comes from the Latin word digitus, which means a finger or toe. The term “digital” originates from our 10 counting digits and implies distinct and separate gradations. As you recall, all computer communication must be expressed in binary digits (orbits). And because a computer is binary, it is also digital. Thus, to produced on a computer, sound and images must be converted into bits; this is the bridge – from analog to digital – that must be crossed.

Understanding the distinction between analog and digital signals is essential grasping the challenges facing multimedia technology. The difference between using digital communication to describe the shape of a loading ramp and a staircase. A loading ramp is essentially analog because the changes in height of the ramp are gradual, continuous, with a smooth transition, making the number of different heights of the loading ramp infinite. A staircase is essentially digital because changes in height move abruptly from one state to another, with no transition in between, in a way similar to counting. It is easy to recreate the shape of the staircase because it is easy to measure the exact height of every part of the staircase, and there are a finite number of these heights. It is not so easy to recreate the

control and comply with the telephony Application Programming Interface (TAPI), a standard jointly developed by Intel and Microsoft, used by Windows to connect a PC to telephone services. TAPI is a type of API (application programming interface) that Windows can call when it needs to make a telephone connection. Telephony is a term describing the technology of converting sound to signals that can travel over telephone lines (the technology of telephone).