Minicomputer Merits A Home "It's possible..." says Smith. By JOHN F. SIMS UPI Business Writer NEW YORK (UPI) - Industry Industry promoters would have us believe believe that in five years nine out of every 10 homes in America will have their own minicomputers. minicomputers. The electronics industry sees the idea of the home computer — the latest in a long line of spinoffs from America's space exploration program — as one whose time has come. But once you've linked a small computer to your TV set and you've played Star Trek or Pong and you've calculated your income tax — what then? According to the industry, an awful lot. Changes in your lifestyle, through the use of computers in the home could be as revolutionary revolutionary as you want them to be, or can afford. On the other hand, you could just ignore the whole trend and probably save yourself a lot of technological anguish. Electronics Pervade Ryal R. Poppa, chairman of Pertec Computer Corp., recently recently told an electronics industry seminar: "To many people, electronics already seems pervasive. pervasive. But we've only scratched the surface. "In offices, homes and indus- try: in cars, planes and trains: in schools, universities and churches: even in leisure time activities, electronics will improve improve our lives with an almost insignificant increase in cost... "Only afew months ago I projected projected that sales of microcomputers, microcomputers, the new generation of tiny computers, would reach $100 million by 1980. With the enormous interest and acceptance acceptance of our MITS Altair microcomputer, microcomputer, the first to reach the market, and what I now see being accomplished by others in the field, today I'd have to raise that projection substantially. We're now looking for industry sales of microcomputers to hit $150 million in 1980." The first store specializing in small computers opened in Los Angeles in 197S. Now there are more than 500 such stores scattered scattered across the country. Personal computing expositions, expositions, each one displaying a larger range of available hardware hardware and software, have been held in several major cities, Growth Predicted Carl T. Helmers, editor of the specialist magazine "Byte" said: "Personal computing is in its adolescence now, but growth within the next few years should be rapid and exciting." Some 50,000 minicomputers have already been sold. Most were nominally for use in the home, but in fact many have wound up being pressed into service in small businesses. Industry experts predict 1978 will be a boom year in which 150,000 or more minicomputers will be sold. Do-it-yourself minicomputer kits costing as little as $300 are now available. Very sophisticated sophisticated devices sell for less than $3,000 and fdrtS.OOOyou can buy a computer, not much bigger than a filing cabinet, which is as capable as machines that cost $1 million only 10 years ago. What' are the attractions of small computers? • The industry's promoters offer a wide range of applications, applications, including the following: — calculating household expenses expenses and working out income tax. — storing names and addresses addresses of friends to ease working out invitaton lists for parties. ~ converting recipes to fit the size of your dinner party. - all kinds of games, from Ping Pong up to and including a machine that plays master- level chess. - a program that allows a small computer to compose quartets and quintets. —computers to help the handicapped. handicapped. — a very patient computer that teaches children math. Computer buffs say it may not be long before the average homeowner goes to his local electronics store to buy a tape or disc specially designed to program his home computer to keep an inventory of family possessions, possessions, balance the checkbook, checkbook, or tell the microwave oven when to start and stop. Overcoming Suspicion But a major problem for the manufacturers of small computers computers is overcoming popular suspicion suspicion of computers in general and the glazed look that most people adopt when confronted with computer jargon. According to Poppa, the day is coming when new homes will have computers built in. "With appropriate software (jargon for the programs that make computers work) such a computer could tell you how much the family spent for groceries last month arid compare compare it with the amount spent in the same month last year," he said. "More importantly, it would permit more efficient regulation regulation of the heating, air conditioning, conditioning, lights, pool temperature temperature and even the sprinklers, based on the amount of moisture moisture in the soil," he said. "That will lower utility bills and help preserve precious natural resources resources at the same time—well worth the relatively low cost of the microcomputer." The technology is available now, Poppa said, but America is not quite ready. "The present school-age generation generation is being trained with computers and by the time these people are ready for their own houses, the built-in computer computer will be widely accepted," he said. Children brought up to regard computers as mere tools will not experience that "future shock" that leaves many people baffled by the mystique that has grown around computers. Language Barrier Erik Sandberg-Diment, editor and publisher of another computer magazine called ROM, said he had problems breaking that language barrier. "Computerland seemed to be walled in completely by gibberish," gibberish," he wrote in an editorial. "I knew it wasn't really gibberish: it all meant something. But even those who tried to explain the jargon to me used the same language to describe terms as the terms themselves did." How will people survive if they don't computerize their lives? Obviously not too badly. Household accounts and taxes can be worked out on a handheld handheld calculator, or even just with pencil and paper. A parent (Continued on Page 10) MORE POPULAR THAN TV ?-When American homes are equipped with minicomputers, family members may cease arguing over which television television program to watch and instead compete with one another for programs on a tube of a different sort. Sis and junior may want to do their homework; Mom has to plan the menu; and Dad will want to balance the household budget.