OCR Output (chars: 3247) 


Do We Really Need
Home Computers?

Stanley Marcus, the famous merchandiser responsible for
the success of Dallas’ Neiman-Marcus, said recently that the
art of selling is dead in America. Two years ago he took a
pledge not to buy anything ever again on his
own initiative. He would henceforth buy only
things that were sold to him.

In any case, Mr. Marcus said that it
worked out that he hadn’t bought a thing in
two years, and has therefore saved himself
$43,000 per year, the annual average cost of
Mr. Marcus’ predatory appetite.

] In conversation with an executive of IBM


the other day I said that I hoped before I died
that someone — anyone — would devote a
page of advertising now given over to home
Buckley computers to explaining exactly how a com-
puter can be useful — in the home. One’s own

imagination tends to be limited in these matters. I know of one
use to which I would myself wish to put a home computer, but
ele to know of others, since it is difficult to believe that $1.5

illion is being spent idly by American homeowners.

I'd like one that would hold the contents of a large diction-
ary, so that I could type out the word “‘otiose’’ and be remind-
ed of what it meant. I said be reminded of what it meant be-
cause a communicable aphasia hit me when I was 16. At that
time a teacher told his class that most people have two or
three words whose meaning they are forever forgetting, and
he gave as his example the word otiose. I swooped upon a dic-
tionary a half-hour later and learned what it meant.

Since then I have probably looked the word up 30 times. At
this moment, I can’t remember what I means. I don’t suppose,
though, the crowds will storm the store that advertises:
“Learn instantly what otiose means!”’

William Draper, the president of the Import-Export Bank
and an investor in small computers, told me once: “Software
is everything. There are no remaining problems of hardware.”
It took awhile before I understood that, which however I am
now prepared to explain. What he meant was that the machine
exists into which you can program the whole dictionary, or for
that matter the whole encyclopedia. But somebody has got to
pay for the time of the person who types out the 400,000-odd
entries in Webster’s Third into the discs that you then insert
into the machine.

Moreover, the capacity of the machine to memorize in-
creases with some reference to its cost. A machine that
operates a disc that will memorize, let us say, 64 bytes will
give you 64,000 characters. Since the average word has five
characters, then the disc is good for about 10,000 words, or
about 12 times the length of this article.

You can get a second dise — and a third — and a 300th.
And the hardware exists that will search through your discs
until it lands on “‘otiose."” But by that time you have run out of
money and run out of time; so you resign yourself to the dic-
tionary. .
Stanley Marcus is on to something. Some gadgets we know
instinctively how to put to use: radios, say, or Waring blend-
ers. But a $1,000 computer? The Pulitzer Prize belongs to the
man who reveals what they’re good for. I mean, what they're
good for that the average newspaper reader wants to know.

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