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Electronic Explorer

Mapping Out Future Journeys

June 09, 1996|LAURA BLY

When travelers plotting driving trips on DeLorme's soon-to-be-released AAA Map 'n' Go CD-ROM want to know whether they'll face any construction delays or major storms along the way, the answers will arrive in a few clicks of a mouse. Using a link to the company's World Wide Web site, DeLorme provides current and five-day weather forecasts, road construction updates and the skinny on thousands of special events. It's the kind of here-and-now information that, until recently, CD-ROMs have ignored.

DeLorme's Map 'n' Go is the latest example of how publishers of multimedia CD-ROMs--computer discs that integrate text, sound clips, maps, photos and videos--are responding to the explosive growth of the Internet. Within the past six months, estimates Home PC assistant editor Jennifer Triverio, about 10% to 15% of CD-ROM makers have designed their software to include an online connection. The result: A product combining the immediacy of the Internet with sound and graphics that are still difficult and time-consuming to duplicate online.

Among the handful of travel-related hybrids, DeLorme's Map 'n' Go (Windows, $39) is the most ambitious. Scheduled to arrive in stores by the end of June, DeLorme's revamped version of Map 'n' Go would be a winner even without its Internet component. The CD-ROM combines DeLorme's highly touted mapping capabilities (covering an estimated 1 million miles of roads in North America and the Caribbean) with the American Automobile Assn.'s listings and ratings of 57,000 accommodations, restaurants, campgrounds, attractions and points of interest.

Map 'n' Go travelers can plot a journey based on the quickest, shortest or most scenic route. Armed with an address, they'll be able to pinpoint the location of a house, hotel or other destination on one of Map 'n' Go's detailed, street-level maps for 241 North American cities. High-tech drivers with a laptop computer and a Global Positioning Satellite receiver can even use Map 'n' Go to track their progress on the road.

The Internet component, meanwhile, lets CD-ROM users download weather, construction and event updates compiled by DeLorme staff. The resulting information will appear as an overlay on the maps used to plan the journey. One caveat: To access the updates, Map 'n' Go users must have an existing Internet connection through a commercial online service or Internet service provider.

That's not a requirement for another intriguing CD-ROM series, Frommer's Interactive Travel Guides to Boston, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco (Windows, $39.95 each). Travelers who already have an Internet account can go to Frommer's Web page (http://www.mcp.com/1770116059856/macdigital/frommers/) for links to sites that provide weather reports, event listings and other time-sensitive information for each city in the series. The Frommer CD-ROMs incorporate a 10-hour trial subscription to America Online as well. Like Map 'n' Go, the Frommer's Interactive Travel Guides are worthy on their own merits. The disks contain the same information found in the paperback versions, but supplement them with hundreds of color photos and 20 minutes of digital video. (The San Francisco guide even includes a segment on the 1989 earthquake, complete with shots of swaying grocery store shelves.) The guides' sophisticated, interactive maps zoom from overview to street-level, and every place listed is featured on the map as well.

A far less successful example of combining CD-ROMs with online technology is Sabre Interactive's Virtually There: Caribbean (Windows, $29.95). Like many other travel CD-ROMs, Virtually There is long on fluff and short on solid information. And while Sabre Interactive boasts that its CD-ROM users can tap directly into Prodigy for online reservations on easySABRE, that not-so-easy booking system is rapidly being eclipsed by Travelocity, a new Sabre Interactive service available on the Web.

Small bytes: Whether you're looking for advice on how to buy lobsters or directions to the best autumn drive in Vermont, Yankee Magazine's recently launched Web site, NewEngland.Com (http://www.newengland.com) is a well-designed resource. You'll find lodging, dining and attractions information for the six New England states, as well as forums for exchanging tips with other visitors . . . The Smithsonian Institution celebrates its 150th birthday this year, and its Web site (http://www.150.si.edu/) is a great place to catch the party spirit. Check here for schedules and ticket information on its traveling exhibition and tips on how to make the most out of a Washington visit.

Bly welcomes reader comments; her e-mail address is Laura.Bly@latimes.com. Electronic Explorer appears monthly.

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