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Myrtonos

Remembering Encarta

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Myrtonos

This year there will be the 10th anniversary of the last edition of Encarta. One edition of Encarta was the first encyclopedia I ever read, and this was as a child. The big thing about Encarta was that it was not a paper encyclopedia. It was the first multimedia-based encyclopedia project. It was on CD-ROM and CD-ROMs can hold as much information as a much bigger, more expensive and heavier collection of books (which paper encyclopedias were), or hold more than that.

Additionally, articles contained relevant images, mostly in colour and some even had sound clips. But alas, Encarta didn't get as large as I once hoped it would. I do wish that an expert written encyclopedia could have made it to a million articles or more.

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Sanctuary

I remember Encarta well - it came with the first computer I had along with various other CD-ROMs (I still have them but haven't looked at them for many years and they probably wouldn't play on a modern computer). Encarta was a very good resource. At the time I didn't have the internet (as was the case for many other computer users then) so Encarta was especially useful. As internet usage increased more people would use it to find answers to questions and in the last ten years or so Wikipedia in particular has probably made Encarta seem redundant. I imagine that CD-ROMs in general have also largely fallen into disuse - not just due to their cost and a preference for free online access but also as they are less convenient to use than online resources. However for a while they were an excellent resource.

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Heather

Ahh, yes, I remember Encarta.  I believe they either came with our first Microsoft computer or we got them in a package around the same time.  I remember it was a very good resource.  Growing up, my family owned a set of heavy encyclopedias which was excellent for those very early 'research' projects and when we got Encarta, it was also an excellent resource. I don't remember it too well but just remember it fondly.  

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Myrtonos
16 hours ago, Sanctuary said:

Encarta was a very good resource. At the time I didn't have the internet (as was the case for many other computer users then) so Encarta was especially useful. As internet usage increased more people would use it to find answers to questions and in the last ten years or so Wikipedia in particular has probably made Encarta seem redundant.

Remember that Encarta was never as large as Wikipedia, possibly not even as large as Britannica. If only Encarta had over a million articles, things may have been different. Maybe Wikipedia would have never existed or at least Encarta would have gone on for longer.

I really wonder whether a free resource that anyone can edit should really be allowed to compete with a non-free expert written one.

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Myrtonos

I did have internet access in the 1990s, I got it shortly after Encarta. At that time, all web pages I ever saw were read-only.

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Myrtonos

Here is a list of features of Encarta:

First and foremost was the Encyclopedia. This was an expert written Encyclopedia and also proprietary*. Installed offline copies of at least some editions could be updated over the internet, apparently using a feature called the yearbook builder. Encarta was also multilingual, not only that, but there were even different English language editions for different English speaking countries, and I wonder whether articles on controversial topics may have been among the articles that differed in different editions of Encarta, including editions in the same language. Encarta also included a dictionary.

*I don't know who has the rights to Encarta articles, but I realise that those who contributed must have at least granted Microsoft permission to use the articles that they wrote and along with that, permission for Microsoft to allow others to use it.

Interactives

Encarta featured an interactive section with things like personal nutrition feature calculating various daily intakes. Also, another two interrelated features were Orbit (where you could just set a path for a planet or moon and it would get into a stable orbit) and Atlas, an interactive globe where you could zoom in and find all sorts of information about countries of the world and cities within them. Finally, there was a game called MindMaze, where the player went from room-to-room answering questions about topics mentioned in the Encylopedia.

What Encarta could have been

So, being a multimedia-based Encyclopedia project, I have wondered why Encarta failed to reach, say, a million articles. What could Microsoft have done to get more into Encarta?

 

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