Joyce Chen_陳禹先

CD-ROMs are Fun

An interview with the directors of ‘V.O.L.V.O /Airbag CD-ROM’

This CD-ROM is a transformation of an exhibition promoting Dutch new media artists (musical, time-based, computer-based art) from 1996. These artist are also the friends of the ‘V.O.L.V.O/ Airbag CD-ROM' directors, Jans Possel and Paul Groot.


VolvoAirbag CD-ROM welcome page -

It is not hard to imagine that all the media pioneers and artists were very exited to explore the CD-ROM as a new form of storage media. From this exploring the V.O.L.V.O/ Airbag CD-ROM (1996) arose. This CD-ROM will show you things like pictures and videos chasing the cursor and flashing black and white numbers in the corner of a black screen to create a movie theater environment.


VolvoAirbag CD-ROM hardware information 1995 -

The V.O.L.V.O/ Airbag CD-ROM was nominated for the Designprijs Rotterdam (Rotterdam Design Award)’ in 1996 and was invited to exhibit in some of the famous multimedia exhibitions and festivals from that time, including: 'Burning the Interface’ by 'Museum of Contemporary Art' in Sydney (1996), 'VideoFest Berlin' (1996) and ‘Art Festival International de Musica Avancada i Art Multimedia’ in Barcelona (1997).

VolvoAirbag CD-ROM exhibition side material - Burning the Interface in Sydney

Accompanied with the V.O.L.V.O/ Airbag CD-ROM playing on an emulator and Mediamatic Magazine Vol8#2/3, we started the interview. The following questions are answered by Jans Possel an Paul Groot on 4 November 2014.

Volvo Airbag CD-ROM goodbye page -

What is the main idea and purpose of this CD-ROM?

The purpose was to make the friends of Jans and also the friends of V.O.L.V.O. more popular. It was the idea to make the CD-ROM a promotional thing.

Can you tell a bit about the design of the user interface and user experience of this CD-ROM?

When we decided to make the CD-ROM, we immediately knew we were going to make a CD-ROM that we had never seen before. We wanted to give the word ‘interaction’ another meaning. The interface design, like the square buttons, are mostly designed for fun, we tried to design the CD-ROM in a way to make users be a part of the CD-ROM as much as possible. You can also move the pictures on the screen by moving cursor. This is the so-called ‘Angel’ technique', and has been applied throughout most of the CD-ROM, to keep your mouse moving all the time. You can find similar elements like this in CD-ROMs like 'The Doors Of Perception' and 'The Blindrom', but this one is made for promotion while the others are more serious.


Volvo Airbag CD-ROM fig-1 -

What elements and experiences of the V.O.L.V.O / Airbag CD-ROM did you wanted to emphasize?

Playing the CD-ROM, you can have a movie experience at your own computer, just like in the cinema. At that time it was not usual to make a film and put it on a CD-ROM. You can see the screen is so small, because there was not enough memory on an Apple computer at that time, it was not possible to make it bigger. But the smaller you make the film, the bigger the cinema is. We wanted the spectator to have the feeling that they’re sitting in a film theater, looking at the dark screen. We wanted to find out if the design of a CD-ROM measured up against the conventional power of the cinema, of music, or of the theater.

If we want to recreate the same experience people had playing the V.O.L.V.O / Airbag CD-ROM, do you think the big round ‘mouse’ is still important (compare to touchscreen user-experience)?

No, the important thing is the cursor shown on the screen, it can also be a touch screen if possible. But it was exceptional for that time to use a CD-ROM in the way we did.

Would you now make the same kind of CD-ROM?

No, because our main goal was to promote. Now we will just put it on Youtube. It's a lot easier to get a bigger audience like this. Twenty years ago, CD-ROM was the only storage media that could be used for this kind of work.


Volvo Airbag Cd-ROM fig-2 -


Volvo Airbag CD-ROM Sketch -

At the end, Jans and Paul gave important advice to every V.O.L.V.O / Airbag CD-ROM player.

We suggest you to be patient and slowly go deeper into CD-ROM, and you better start your exploring at the ‘VolvoIntro' page.

Some other handy information

If you look at the introduction page inside the cover of the Mediamatic Magazine Vol8#2/3 before you play the CD-ROM, you will find some names and codes you will never understand without proper knowledge of the background of the V.O.L.V.O / Airbag CD-ROM.

V.O.L.V.O / ‘Vereniging onder leiding van onszelf’ (Foundation under it’s own auspices) An art performance team agency from Amsterdam, focus on drama and music.
Pinky, Richard and Lennart/ The three members of V.O.L.V.O.
Airbag Can Save Lives/ A song made by V.O.L.V.O
Yariv Alter Fin/ A friend of Jans Possel, he made all the Baby animation in the CD-ROM.
V.O.L.V.O Friends/ Other artists who are friends of V.O.L.V.O
Three Angels/ In the CD-ROM, you can find a naked man, he is the angel and this is a joke.
Mediamatic Code/ (I didn’t get the answer during the interview)
Let your mouse roll./ This means you should roll the tag on the screen by moving your mouse. Not what I thought: rolling the middle button on the mouse. Obvious for a one-buttoned mouse from 1996, cause it doesn't have a scroll-button.


VolvoAirbag CD-ROM won Rotterdam Design Price -