Silver Disc Souvenirs

Dodgy CD-ROMs and Music Top Tens

Paris:- Wednesday, 22. May 1996:- A friend of mine from Munich was visiting a couple of weeks ago, and he picked up the CD-ROM, 'Musée d'Orsay' in the shop at the museum. As might be expected, all the major museums now have CD-ROM titles dedicated to them, and their own shops to sell them in. If well-done, they make a lasting and worthwhile souvenir - and often contain more than a visitor will be able to see in one visit.

However, after only a few days back in Munich, my friend sent me an email cry for help: "The CD-ROM won't play. It says, '"un ordinateur a processeur 68040"' is missing !!?"

He is perfectly right; his computer contains a Motorola 68030 microprocessor. In small print of the back of the CD-ROM package, there is a 'Fiche Technique' - information file - that clearly states that this particular CD-ROM requires either a Macintosh model 630 (processor 68LC040) or a PowerMac, or a PC with an Intel-equivalent of a 486DX2/66 processor.

I hope this sounds like total mumbojumbo to most readers, because it is. You can buy a music CD (CD-Audio) any place in the world and it will play on your CD player, no matter what model - because all CD-Audio players can 'read' the information on the disc and this information is placed on all discs in the same, standard 'Red Book' way.

It is supposed to be the same with CD-ROMs. Although these can have their data contents composed in slightly different ways - a Macintosh with a standard system can read or translate about four or five standards: CD-ROMs, multisession Photo-CDs, and even music CDs. One of the best selling CD-ROMs in the world, 'Myst,' can play either on older Mac or PCs, and some CD-ROMs can play on both computer types.

A CD-ROM producer, in order to reach the widest possible audience, has an interest in making the CD-ROM compatible with the largest number of computers possible.

I checked this out with a recent French CD-ROM catalogue I have here. Most of the titles will play on older, low-end Macs; but many require PCs with the newer 486 processors.

The exceptions - most of them are titles produced in France - such as Edusoft's 'Casper' and the Disney Interactive titles, 'Le Roi Lion' and 'Aladdin.' Among the titles in museum shops requiring muscular systems, you will find the 'Musée d'Orsay,' 'Le Cinéma des Lumière,' the new and very nice, 'Paris - Virtual Tourism' (powerful processor justified because it uses QuickTimeVR). Outside of museums, watch out for 'Elle - 2000 Recettes' and 'Le Livre de Lulu.'

All that remains to be seen is whether I can exchange my friend's unplayable 400 franc CD-ROM at the Musée d'Orsay shop, for 'Une Passion pour l'Art' - a title about the famous Dr. Barnes' collection.

French Audio CDs

While mulling over the CD-ROM problem, it occurred to me that another, and cheaper, souvenir of French culture, might be a music CD and there will be no problem of compatibility. I hear French-produced music all the time on the radio - but 'my' radio station, Radio France's FIP, does not announce titles or artists - so really, I know about as much as any Metropole reader outside of France.

Although I am going to mention two outlets by name, this is not an endorsement of either - there are plenty of other places in Paris to buy music. Both audio CDs and CD-ROMs are grossly over-priced in any case.

Virgin store front (19k) I went first to the Virgin Megastore in the Prisunic building on the Champs-Elysées because I've been in it only once or twice before. My objective: find a new and popular audio CD by a French artist. I asked at the reception, and was directed to the 'Varietés Françaises' section. Opposite the reception desk, there is a stand with sets of headphones and album covers of the latest releases on display. If you pick up a headset, you will hear the album that is displayed above it. The recording starts to play about 15 to 30 seconds after you pick up the 'phones, and if you push the red button, the next track will be selected. The same system is installed at the fnac store on avenue des Ternes where I also went, but fnac's listening posts have a 'back' button as well.
Virgin's interior space is worth a visit for its staircases, plus there is a bar-restaurant on the Champs-Elysées side, sharing the video department, up on the third floor. Nice parking place for tired feet. Virgin also has an Internet layout, to the left and downstairs from the entry, with seven PCs available for 35 francs per half-hour - and the space is shared with the ticket sales for Paris theatres and events. Another below-ground area is filled with a large bookstore. The store is open until 23:00 all week, except Mondays when it closes at 21:00.
fnac store front (19k) The fnac store on avenue des Ternes in the old Magazins Réunis building is about the same as the rest of fnac's location around Paris. As at Virgin, you look for the 'Varietés Françaises' section in the record department.

Once there, look for the stand with the current 'top 10 best sellers' and then look for a nearby listening post to hear whatever you've chosen to test. This is basically the same idea as at Virgin, but fnac is more methodical, with 'top 10' stands for jazz, 'world music,' pop-rock, movie music, and classics. (The classic section also has a no-headset auditorium, where a selection of nine titles are changed hourly throughout the day, and the whole set is changed weekly.)

Back at the top 10 'Varietés Françaises,' this is today's fnac selection:
  1. 'Falling into You' by Celine Dion
  2. 'D'Eux' by Celine Dion
  3. 'France' songs by Michel Berger, sung by France Gall
  4. 'Renaud Chante Brassens' by Renaud
  5. 'Le Danger' by Françoise Hardy
  6. 'Havane' by Dany Brillant
  7. 'Comme Ils l'Imaginent' by Veronique Sanson
  8. 'Années Barclay' by Jean Ferrat (2 CD set)
  9. 'Bevilacoua' by Christophe
  10. 'Versions Jane' written by Serge Gainsbourg, previously unsung by Jane Birkin, including one never before performed.
'Kent' by Pascal Obispo - this was a top seller at Virgin, but has only been on sale at fnac since this morning and therefore is unrated.

These are the discs that the French public is buying today - they may not be your taste or mine - so give them a test if you are in Paris. The assistant who showed me Virgin's setup, particularly recommended the discs by Françoise Hardy and Jane Birkin.

I might very well pick one of these myself - if I heard it on my no-names no-blah-blah FM station, FIP. If FIP's phone lines are not clogged, I can phone up and get the name and the disc label; you try it: dial 42 20 12 34 and tell them about what time it was you heard whatever it was. Then run out and buy before it disappears from the 'Top 10 Sellers- this-minute' display. From about 100 to 150 francs, tax included.

Virgin Megastore - Paris - URL: http://www.virgin.fr/

fnac Web: http://www.fnac.fr/


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