I found this online a while ago, although it’s taken about half a year to pick it up, but here we are.
What is kind of cool about this, is that being from 1991 this is not for Windows, that this reference library instead targets MS-DOS using the MSL/Microsoft Library from the Programmer’s Library. So the same advantage holds true, that the content can be scraped from the text mode video RAM.
So yeah, back in the day this was some really amazing stuff, the ability to search a few books in some incredibly fast and convenient, although as always lacking super depth.
Back then online services were crazy expensive, charging by the minute, and of course just like the stock MS-DOS client preventing you from being able to easily copy the text. Outside of anything beyond gradeschool I couldn’t imagine the ‘encyclopedia’ being of all that much worth but the dictionary/thesaurus & quotations is okay enough, although in 2018 it really is showing it’s age.
Having your own private reference back then was a big deal, something like this would have been more apt in a library, but you’d have to wait in line, no doubt as the ability to look up stuff just by typing would have been great. While using this online would have cost quite a bit quickly justifying the cost of a CD-ROM drive along with the program.
The common carrier and lower costs of delivering content over the internet has really made something like this an oddity of time, but for anyone that needs to work 100% offline, these are a real gem.
Another great use of extracting the books from the CD-ROM, is that you can take, say the “American Heritage Dictionary“, a 30MB file, and compress it with 7zip, yielding a file just under 4MB, or an 87%, or a 7.76:1 compression ratio. So unlike other ‘dictionary’ test compression sets, this is using an actual dictionary.
For anyone wanting to take a dive, I put it on archive.org