Bits & Bytes
SEARCHING FOR THE INSIDE TRACK ON THE INFOBAHN
The Information Superhighway. What exactly is it? No one seems to know. On-line computer services, such as CompuServe Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, think they are closer to creating the network of the future than the cable-TV and telecommunications giants. Their big edge: "interactivity"--allowing subscribers to plumb various databases, shop, or exchange information. All that's needed now, CompuServe figures, is to jazz up the prosaic appearance of its service. So the unit of H&R Block Inc. recently introduced CompuServe CD, a multimedia enhancement to its 15-year-old information service.
The compact disk is much like an electronic version of the monthly magazine the service produces for its 1.9 million members. The CD, to be issued every other month, contains articles and software that owners can browse through and try. What's more, the $7.95 CD also features digitized audio and video clips of interviews with computer industry executives and promotions for various products and services available during those two months. The current disk, for example, features a trailer for the movie City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold. After watching the trailer, CompuServe CD members can log on to the network using the included interface software and get reviews from well-known movie critic Roger Ebert or chat with other members who have seen the movie. The disk is being produced for IBM-compatible multi-
media PCs, and CompuServe officials say versions for Apple Computer Inc. machines are forthcoming.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG