Having to do some research for school and bored of just using the internet, I installed Encarta 99 earlier. It’s always been something of niche interest to me and I’d be more than happy to have some helpful information stored for when I need to work offline; on top of that, it’s just a plain neat piece of kit altogether.

While Encarta has sadly long bit the dust from the likes of Wikipedia and other internet resources (its last release was in 2009) leaving as but a faint memory, I can tell how exciting it must have been- and, arguably, still could be- to have a full interactive encyclopedia right on your hard drive.

Throughout the 90s, multimedia sold PCs. Interactive CD-ROMs popped up left on many subjects and niches. Microsoft Home had plenty of them, some of which I have in my posession, including the ever-so enlightening Julia Child’s Home Cooking with Master Chefs.

See the source image

Encarta was the flagship of this era. Put away your Encyclopædia Britannicas and tap into a wealth of knowledge within seconds, with not only articles and images presented in dazzling hypertext but also maps, panoramas, presentations, tables, charts, a dictionary, web links, and updates for a whole year.

The update servers are sadly long gone, and I’m not sure if the updates have been archived.

It was a breakthrough. So much content, delivered in a way that’s accessible and fun to explore. I really like the presentation of the articles and different topics in Encarta 99: it’s got that neat late 90s Microsoft aesthetic to it, which I’d totally use in a site sometime. It also appears that the Chicago font (of Classic Mac fame) was used quite a bit as well for small type, amusingly. Good choice, all things considered.

A bobcat.

I’d still happily recommend trying out an old copy of Encarta one time or another in the same way one might keep around an old encyclopedia from yesteryear– just make sure you have Shockwave Player 8 installed first if you’re on modern Windows. A lot of the information is out of date, but when you’re looking in historical contexts or general subjects, it can be fun and useful. You might even learn something new just jumping around the navigation.

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