The Department of State has very usefully compiled what it calls "a foreign policy library at your fingertips," and it is indeed a vast compendium of reference information. This CD-ROM includes an entire volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States (covering the Soviet Union and other topics, 1958-60), a historical listing of ambassadors and key department personnel, congressional and other reports, the weekly publication Dispatch since 1990, the transcript of daily press briefings going back to 1991, the most recent Country Background Notes for most countries, and so forth. Particularly impressive is the Adobe Acrobat reader, which makes it possible to view documents in an "as-printed" format. A search function permits the viewer to find information that in printed form would not be accessible. A subscription brings four discs a year, each of which includes about three hundred new documents. (Some of the same information can be located on the Internet's World Wide Web, at http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/dosfan.html)
For the Middle East, in addition to information located under the names of countries and individuals, searching for such key words as "terrorism" and "peace process" turns up a bounty of information. Unfortunately, however, inconsistent transliterations of Middle Eastern names makes it hard to track down all references. Also on the negative side, the CD-ROM lacks proper documentation, so that to figure out how to use the disc takes about as long as driving over to the old-fashioned sort of library. Clearly, this technology is yet in its infancy; with time, it will become truly useful.