The Electronic Library

More than ever recreational diving has become dive travel to exotic coral reef destinations.  Although there is a strong demand for good field guides to identify the myriad reef life encountered by divers, reef faunas are not very well suited to  conventional guide books, especially in the rich Indo-Pacific area.  The biggest problem is simply the sheer number of species involved.  Field guides end up filled with tiny images, space for only the briefest of text information, being far from complete in their coverage and still ending up being too bulky for a convenient field guide.  Even accepting such manifold inadequacies it would require a half dozen or more such volumes to cover the major groups of creatures involved.

Fortunately there is a far better solution than books.  Laptop computers are now good enough and affordable enough that they are replacing desktop machines for many people.  With digital photography also rapidly replacing film more and more divers are beginning to carry laptops  to store and view their pictures.  With a laptop computer on hand a whole new spectrum of possibilities opens up.  An entire library of  references can be carried on a couple of disks or even on the computer's hard drive.  Thousands of full screen high resolution color images can be included and powerful versatile means of browsing, searching  and presenting information are available.

In the Driftline section of this issue of Golden Dolphin you will find a review of a remarkable CD-ROM on the Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific by Ross Robertson and Gerry Allen.  This is a comprehensive guide to the fishes of that region and it goes far beyond anything possible in a book.  It exemplifies what can be done with a disk based field guide and is an incredible bargain as well. 

The future has arrived and over coming issues Golden Dolphin will be reviewing the best of available CD/DVD guides and references. 

 Walter Starck