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The Oxford English Dictionary on Compact Disk (1987) J. he OED on one or two compact disks that look like music CDs, each in its plastic case, easily fitting into a jacket pocket or a purse! Actually the disks fit in a ring binder, the kind that computer manuals are often packaged in, with two floppy disks and a 100-page manual. Still the whole box can fit in a briefcase, which the original (hardcopy) version in its 12 volumes of 1933 will not.1 The work under review is the unrevised first edition, without either the original Supplement of 1933 with its 867 pages of additional vocabulary, its lists of emendations and spurious words, and its important 91-page bibliography of works quoted in the main word-list, or the four supplementary volumes published between 1972 and 1986. That is, the buyer of this set will not be getting the Second Edition of the OED, which incorporates all the supplementary material, but the basic original set first published in ten volumes in 1928.2 In order to use this technologically advanced version of an old and legendary lexicon, the owner must have access to a personal computer with 640K storage and a CD-ROM reader. There ought also to be an attached printer available so that findings can be recorded. The CD reader may be internal (i.e., inserted in the place of one of the floppy disk drives) and otherwise invisible. Or it may be in a box two to three inches high, six to ten inches wide and sometimes a foot long, connected to the computer by cable. Depending on make and quality such a peripheral device will cost between $500 and $1,000. Thus the acquisition of the OED on compact disk involves an outlay of $1,000- $2,000 in addition to the computer and printer and requires an amount ofphysical space not much smaller than the multivolume set.3 Once the purchaser has acquired the CD version and the CD reader is in place and connected, and the computer turned on, the 156Reviews owner must "install" the software, a procedure familiar to anyone who has acquired a word-processing package. The software resides on two floppy disks that are provided with the manual. The installation procedure , adequately described in the manual, is not complicated and need only be performed once. The software may be used directly from the floppy disks or stored on the hard disk, the latter alternative being far more convenient. When using the two-CD version, the owner must decide whether to scan A-N or O-Z, since only one disk can fit in the reader at one time. To start using the OED on CD, the owner must call up the directory in which the software resides and give the command OEDCD, which will bring up the first screen and lead to the query menu. At this point a good deal of practice is going to be necessary, even for those who have experience with personal computers. Although the OED on CD may simply be read in the same way as the original—by calling up an entry in a given volume and reading through it on successive screens—that is not really what it was designed to do nor what it is most useful for. The user trying to read an entry on twelve screens quickly discovers the great advantages of the codex form of the printed book. The real utility of the OED on CD is its ability to find items not listed alphabetically and to search out combinations of elements . The printed version of any dictionary can only be consulted by finding the alphabetical position of an entry. But to find all the words borrowed from Armenian or the list of all the authors cited or the dates of the most frequent quotations calls for additional indexes which some dictionaries may possibly provide but usually don't.4 Without them, the searcher has to fish around in the book or read it through. The CD version can be consulted in a more complex manner , and that is where its great value lies. The elements of an...


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pp. 155-160
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