A journalist's bemused but revealing take on a hectic 12 months in the professional life of a Microsoft design/development team fashioning a new product intended to give the software colossus a jump start in the burgeoning multimedia market. Drawing on open access to the Generation X programmers assigned to the compact-disc project (an animated/illustrated encyclopedia for children known in-house as ""Sendak""), Moody offers a tellingly detailed and mercifully comprehensible account of the creative process in a field where the state of the art is comparatively primitive and decidedly fluid. As the author observes, developing CD-ROM software that provides TV quality audio and video for use in a personal computer ""is a little like trying to show a movie on a calculator."" In addition, members of the small task force had to deal with often bitter internal conflicts involving responsibility for slipped deadlines, the availability of resources, the product's bottom-line potential, and the great expectations of Bill Gates, the Washington-based company's nerdy but demanding co-founder. Working long hours in a chaotic environment pulsing to the rhythms of local rock bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the young coders soldiered on. Technical obstacles were overcome or sidestepped (e.g., by sacrificing once-prized features), while personnel problems were resolved by chance (maternity leaves) and, in a couple of cases, transfers. Convinced he has been witness to an epic disaster, the author is frankly astonished to discover the soapopera proceedings have yielded a commercial, bug-free product (dubbed Explorapedia) roughly on time and within budget. In a subsequent interview with Gates, Moody learns the Microsoft way is to focus its minions on an ideal combination of technical excellence and retail appeal that is kept just out of reach. An informative and engrossing glimpse of what's behind the small wonders of an advanced consumer society.