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Personal computers (and small business computers) apparently had a modest prominence at the winter Consumer Electronics Show (January 8 11, at Las Vegas). Quite a variety are available and the prices start at about $200 for the most basic machine. Up to now I have wondered what the average person would do with one. I, at least, felt it would be as easy to balance my checkbook with a calculator as to program a computer and make the computer entries; my wife can find her recipes as easily in her shelf of cookbooks as to search a computer memory. Besides how much memory do you need to hold forty cookbooks? And they do fall open to certain favorites anyway.
But now the situation is beginning to change in exciting ways. There has been for some time good reason, prices being what they are, for many small business uses of computers, for bookkeeping, inventory control, etc., and now I am finding real reasons for home computers. Several companies are offering, via telephone and soon via cable TV cables, access to a wide variety of data bases and I am convinced that there will be a tremendous expansion of this sort of service in the next few years.
And the costs should be moderate. One such company now states that it offers access to over 2000 data bases, business, technical, news, games, etc., and for an off-hours cost of under $3 per hour. (Cost during business hours is $15 per hour.) Last spring Sylvania was setting up a data base a technician could access thru his computer via the telephone and check factory analysis of assorted troubleshooting problems. This could be a tremendous asset to your shop, if each manufacturer provided such access to a troubleshooting data base.
For the home, news, general information (the extinction of the printed encyclopedia?), income tax help, games, various types of educational programs--the list is endless-are and can be available-and can be displayed on a quite basic computer CRT terminal.
What does this mean for you? Start looking to those companies looking for dealers or service. Some industry spokesmen feel the 1981 sales of under $10,000 dollar computers could reach $10 billion. That's a lot of sales--it rivals television--and someone has to sell and service them. I do not think the organization to handle it exists today. Learn to understand small computers, keep an eye on the opportunities that will arise. Although the average home will not treat its computer as a computer, but will use it to have access to information, it is going to be a tremendous factor in consumer electronics during the early 80's.
Walter H. Schwartz, Editor (Duluth)
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(source: Electronic Technician/Dealer)