Sunday, April 05, 2009

Speaking of the Nineties: Microsoft Encarta

There was nothing like getting a CD-ROM of Microsoft Encarta that came with your family’s new computer on Christmas morning. You could sit around in your comfortable PJs while your dad set it up, and then you and your brother could insert the mystical disc and surf tides of Knowledge (after dad’s boring tutorial wherein you learn about Harriet Tubman for the billionth time). First you might check out a short video clip of a whale cresting the water. Then you might look at a badass picture of a geode. Then, drunk and reckless on learning one of you might shout out “sedimentary rock!” before you spend the next half hour morbidly researching the holocaust. Your brother might insist on controlling the mouse and kind of elbowing you away, and that’s when you grab the mouse pad and throw it across the room like a frisbee, only to realize that the mouse still works on the raw table (duh). You check out some prism shit, some civil war stuff, a line drawing of how a hydraulic engine works. You secretly wish that Microsoft Encarta had some info on whether you can communicate telepathically with dolphins, or at least a video of two people doing it. Then you realize that you’ve broken out into a cold sweat, and it’s lunchtime. So you and your brother go upstairs and think about how maybe there’s something in Microsoft Encarta that would explain why Mom looks so tired all the time.


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