1993 Called–It Wants Its Encarta CD Back

In 1993 there were two compelling reasons why everyone needed a computer with a CD-ROM drive—getting lost in the imaginary world of Myst and using Encarta to learn all about the real world.

Microsoft ENCARTA '95 CD-ROM for Windows
Image via iOffer.

Before I was online, Encarta provided me with hours of educational info-surfing. It was the first non-game I ever remember using on a computer (with the possible exception of Wordperfect). For nearly a decade I relied on Encarta as my encyclopedia of choice.

Along with the rest of world, I abandoned Encarta in favor of Wikipedia sometime in the early 2000s. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of the Internet combined with Wikipedia’s ability to stay current helped it kill off Encarta by 2009.

Lately, however, I’ve noticed a few apps pop up in both Apple’s Mac App Store as well as in iTunes for offline Wikipedia browsing. I’m not convinced that this is a good thing.

App Store
Image via my flickr.

The second these apps gain traction Wikipedia becomes a snapshot of itself—Encarta minus the multimedia.

If you’ve been looking for something like this you should check out either Wikipedia Offline (available Mac for $14.99 for a limited time or iOS devices for $9.99) or All of Wikipedia – Offline (available for iOS devices only for $8.99).

Were you an Encarta user back in the day? If so, what for (I have memories of cranking out country reports with it)? Do you think there’s still a market for offline encyclopedias? Should Microsoft resurrect its trusty reference software? Sound off in the comments below.


3 thoughts on “1993 Called–It Wants Its Encarta CD Back

  1. K

    Thanks for this flashback. I totally remember using Encarta back in the 1990s. At the time, I was just working my way through junior high and high school, so I used it for presentations, reports, etc. It was certainly way more convenient and useful than paper encyclopedias, though I still used those as well (it seems so archaic now!). But yeah, that was before the Internet really came into its own. I guess there could be a place for Encarta, where the main selling point would be that it was written/updated regularly by actual experts and therefore more accurate/reputable than Wikipedia (you could actually cite it in academic work, for example). If it were offered as an app, at a reasonable price, maybe. But I don’t know if the economics would work out.

  2. writerwren

    Wow, talk about digging up memories from the dusty corners of my mind. I remember Encarta! When I wasn’t playing Commander Keen, I would spend hours searching the encylopedia for all kinds of information, I seem to remember some fun games, including a constellation one I was addicted to. Definitely helpful when writing those seemingly arduous 250-word reports :). They had a particularly creepy vocalization describing tasmanian devils…

    I can’t really envision Encarta being that widely used today. An encylopedia in general is a pretty limited source of information. Serious research projects require a lot more in-depth searching and for the casual reader, why use an encylopedia when a simple google search can yield answers to most questions, as can Wikepdia? Maybe as a search function or something similar, but I personally think it would be redundant.

  3. Ammon Post author

    I miss Encarta about as much as I miss Microsoft Money. They used to be part of the PC computing landscape for me, but even long before either was discontinued it had been ages since I’d used either one.

    They both been replaced by free, cloud-based products that might not be as good, but offer a “good enough” feature set and user experience.

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