What future do we want?
THE HOME INFORMATION TERMINAL - 1970s
The real ``computer revolution'' hasn't happened yet, because people
don't yet use computers in their daily lives. When most people have
home computer terminals with access to all the world's public
information, it will revolutionize the way we conduct our personal
business, the way we learn new skills, the way we read, the way
information is published and sold, the conduct of political and other
controversy, and how we decide what to buy.
The technology for information utilities serving
home computer terminals is already here
and cheap enough and will get much cheaper, but the
organizational problems of creating new public utilities
This paper treats the services that can be offered, why
people will want them, why they are important socially, the relevant
technology and its costs, some social problems associated with the
new technology - especially the problem of minimizing monopoly, and
some relevant experience and experiments at Stanford University.
There has been a scientific and technological ``computer revolution'',
but it hasn't much affected daily life except to improve living
standards by making goods and services with less labor.
The prevalent belief that technology is
changing the world faster and faster, and people can't adapt to it -
is wrong. In fact, the inventions brought into use
since World War II such as TV, jet travel and the pill
have affected daily life much less than those
adopted between 1890 and 1920 such as
electric lights, piped-in gas, telephones, automobiles, and
mechanical refrigeration affected the life of that time.
For most people, computers,
nuclear energy, lasers, and DNA are just names in the news, because
no-one cares whether his electric bill was prepared by a typist or
a computer or whether the light goes on because of burning coal
or fissioning uranium.
Since people take health and prosperity as only their just
deserts, maybe the lack of technological innovation in daily life
contributes to the anti-technological intellectual fads. This lack
is temporary, because cheap information processing will lead to
many more popular inventions than those discussed in this paper.
Since World War II, the technology of transforming information
has become ever cheaper and more powerful.
It will keep getting cheaper - if only because
the technology of integrated circuits is far from using up the
engineering possibilities offered by the science on which it is
based. The advance in the qualitative possibilities of transforming
information is also large, but progress requires
continued conceptual advance.
Computer technology now makes possible new services that will
give us new significant new options in our daily lives.
Within the twenty years and beginning within the next five,
the home computer terminal will revolutionize the way we conduct our
personal business as much as the automobile revolutionized the way
we get around. It will also revolutionize the way information is
distributed in our society, and this will have substantial
effects on politics and education.
The terminal itself will be rather like those already in use
by computer programmers, airline and other reservation clerks, etc.
consisting of a typewriter keyboard and a display for text and
pictures. The revolution will come not from the terminals themselves
but from the information services provided by the computers to which
the terminals are connected and by the access to nation-wide sources
The purpose of this paper is to outline the services that
can be provided, identify some of the important effects, describe the
necessary technology, and identify the areas in which institutional
changes will be forced by the technology. (By forced, I mean
that institutions not making the changes will go out of business
unless new ways of doing business are made illegal).
HOME INFORMATION SERVICES
Visionaries have often envisaged homes equipped with
information terminals each consisting of a typewriter keyboard and a
screen capable of displaying one or more pages of print and pictures.
The terminal would be connected by the telephone system to a
time-shared computer which in turn has access to files containing all
books, magazines, newspapers, catalogs, airline schedules, much
all government and commercial information subject to the Freedom of
Information Act and the like, together with any information the citizen
himself wishes to keep, e.g. his correspondence, bills paid, medical
records, insurance policies, and serial numbers of personal property.
Through the terminal the subscriber can get any information he
wants, can buy and sell, can communicate with persons and
institutions, can receive and pay his bills and taxes,
and process information in other useful ways.
We can start with ordinary reading. To get a newspaper or
book, I type its name or number and the first page appears. The most
obvious benefits are:
In order to see some of the social effects of
the new information system,
suppose that all book and newspaper information were so distributed.
What changes would occur?
- I can get any document instantly.
Since the desire to read a particular book or article is often fleeting,
much more will be read if access is guaranteed and immediate.
- My house isn't full of paper to be sorted and put on
shelves and dusted or put in the trash. Trees aren't cut down, and
air pollution doesn't result from burning the stuff.
Some immediately apparent disadvantages are:
- The expense. I'll deal with this later.
- I can't read in bed. The book-size portable terminal
will come later. A household may require several terminals, and
until the book-terminal is available, we will probably have to
compromise with ecological sin and provide a printer.
There are two other immediate negative reactions:
- The average citizen is a TV fan and doesn't read anyway.
In the first place, a home terminal system doesn't need more than a
small minority of the population as subscribers to be economical,
so if you read, you will benefit whether he does or not.
Secondly, after I have described all the bells and whistles, you
will see that even the TV fan will be tempted, and you - oh socially
conscious reader - may even want to coerce him into buying one or
coerce the government into giving him one for free.
- How can you think of one more convenience and comfort
when the world will come to an end in ten years unless menaces A, B,
and C are dealt with immediately? In the first place, I don't think
the world is about to come to an end or even that it is getting
worse. In the second place, you will see that the new information
system will make the public more responsive to the careful reasoning
of you good guys and more immune to the blatant propaganda of those
At present, a newspaper, magazine or book is a package produced by a
large organization. With the information utility, the physical production
disappears, allowing a much smaller organization to put out the same
packages of text and pictures. Moreover, the user does not face a
one shot decision to buy Time or Newsweek.
He will be able to read the
``cover'' or table of contents of each, read such items as strike his
fancy, and the system will bill him for what he reads from each
source. In fact, since the cost of keeping a file of information in
the computer and making it publicly available will be small, even a
high school student could compete with the New Yorker if he could
write well enough and if word of mouth and mention by reviewers
brought him to public attention. What, then, is a magazine in
the information utility?
A magazine is an organization that puts out a list of
material it has edited and recommends to its readers. It helps its
authors produce material that it thinks will suit the readers, and it
has a financial arrangement with them about splitting the proceeds.
It may or may not have its own computer, and it is
unlikely that it would be profitable for it to own the disk files from
which the ``issues'' are accessed by readers. More likely, it
would rent space on public utility disk files
and pay the utility to bill its readers.
There can be a wide variety of magazines with different
standards of writing and editing and different budgets for carrying
out these activities. However, they will be equally accessible
to readers, and an expensive editorial
organization will be profitable only if it
can produce a package that a large group of people prefers to
the bare output of the writers. The
price of reading a package will be set by the publishers.
Famous authors may not need publishers because their loyal
readers will have the system find their stuff automatically.
A common complaint about newspapers from readers and reporters
alike is their shallowness. This comes from the editorial necessity
of producing a general interest package every day. The new form of
publication will permit a reporter specializing in a country or a
topic to produce articles as long as he pleases so long as he also
produces the short items for the casual reader. The 2New York Times
correspondent in Constantinople will be able to fully satisfy
the fans of Byzantine politics, and there needn't be more than a few
hundred of them to pay his salary.
A reader may feel that he needs help in finding his way
through the totality of literature available to him. People will be
eager to make a living providing it. A bookstore or library is a
program that shows the ``covers'' of publications. Reviewers will
produce lists for him and make money when he reads their lists or by
kickbacks from the publishers. Reading advisers under some
catchier name will offer to generate lists just for him according to a
profile of his interests. A more exotic possibility is that programs
may be written to identify writings that were liked by a large
percentage of the few science fiction fans who have read them and
bring them to the attention of a much larger science fiction public.
If a fraction of the science fiction fans were willing to look at a
random sample of the ``slush pile'' of new writing, then the system
could function without any official editors at all. Presumably people
who thought they could tell writers how to write better would offer
their services directly to the writers.
Advertising in the sense of something that can force itself on
the attention of a reader will disappear because it will be too easy
to read via a program that screens out undesirable material. However,
people will still want to know what is for sale and will still want to
see the seller's story about why they should buy it. Probably,
Time will still be able to get money from advertisers; many
people will still want to know what is advertised in Time,
but those who don't want to know will be able to avoid it
Another effect is the possibility of frequent revisions of
articles and books. An author can take into account new facts or
other people's criticisms, and the revision will take effect
immediately. This raises 1984ish possibilities, so it must be
provided that old versions remain available. Those who suspect the
whole system will keep their own copies of favorite material in their
private files, on microfilm, or even on paper.
Public controversy can be carried out more expeditiously than
at present. If I read something that seems controversial, I can ask
the system if anyone has filed a reply. This, together with an
author's ability to revise his original statement, will lead people
to converge on considered positions more quickly than at present even
if they do not come to actual agreement.
This ability to answer immediately and make that answer
available immediately to any reader of the original statement will
improve both politics and journalism. The controversial style of both
public figures and journalists is profoundly corrupted by their
present ability to hit-and-run. (Everyone notices how much
more reasonable politicians are in small groups within which dissent
can be expressed). When they know their readers will be able to see
an answer from the target of their criticism they will have to put
their arguments in ways that will withstand criticism rather than
merely in ways that have the most immediate effect.
Freedom of information can be made more effective. The
Freedom of Information Act requires that certain government records be
available to the public. However, economics dictates that this
information is available in reading rooms usually in Washington. So
far, the main beneficiaries of the act have been organizations that
can afford full time researchers to dig out the information and legal
staffs experienced in putting judicial spokes in administrative
wheels. If all public information has to be kept in publically
accessible computer systems, then the information will be nationally
available. Even before home terminals become widespread, rather small
organizations and libraries will be able to afford computer terminals
and small amounts of long distance connect time. Therefore, we
advocate that it should be required immediately that public
information be stored in remotely accessible computer systems.
Organizations will be able to acquire suitable terminals in months
while it will take a few years for the government agencies to
implement putting the information in computer systems.
The financial aspect of writing would presumably be as
follows: a piece of written material has a price for reading it.
(This price may be zero for amateur writing, political propaganda,
advertising, and for scientific journals). The reader's account is
debited and the account to which the material belongs is automatically
credited. The reader will have the system balk at what he considers
To summarize: the information utility will promote
intellectual competition by reducing the price of entry, will permit
readers to be selective, and will allow authors to revise material
until they are satisfied that it withstands criticism as well as it
ever will. This should make intellectual life more interesting.
The object of these remarks is not to make a precise
prediction of what will happen but rather to show that the new
technology will support a much wider variety of institutional
arrangements than presently exists.
Effects on commerce and bureaucracy
The new information system will have a profound effect on
buying and selling. Sellers of movies, groceries, automobiles,
plumbing services and cures for baldness will find it advantageous to
list their wares in the information system together with current
prices and availability. The user can place an order through the
system as he can by telephone, but he can do much more:
Many more useful services can be offered
through the new information system and again the system is conducive
to competition. Writing and storing a program and announcing its
availability can be a very low capital operation, and the system can
collect whatever price has been set for its use.
- If bills are ``mailed'' through the information system and
saved away in the user's private files, when he is ready to pay, they
can be presented one at a time and he can type Y or N according to
whether he wants to pay the bill now and the money will be transferred
immediately to the payee, and all necessary records will be kept.
- He can deal with federal, state, local and business
bureaucracies through his terminal. Thus he can get the rules
governing dog licenses, fill out the forms, and pay for the license
through the terminal. Incidentally, instead of putting the same
information on dozens of forms each year, he can have common pieces
of information like his address entered automatically; i.e. when
the automated questionaire says ADDRESS, he types OK, and his program
transmits the address, and when the questionaire transmits ``MOTHER'S
MAIDEN NAME'', he types NO, and his program transmits ``None of your
- He can call on someone's program to scan the sellers of
sports cars and propose what it considers the best deal. This program
might even negotiate with programs representing the sellers.
- He can tell the system whether last year's cure for
baldness worked and a get a summary of the opinions of those who
bothered to record their opinions of the cure he contemplates trying
- He can make an airplane or hotel reservation by
interacting with a program the airline or hotel reservation company
has written to tell him what is available. He need not suffer the
delays you now get when you call an airline or travel agent at peak
- Individual design and construction services can be offered
through the system although this requires the development of computer
controlled manufacturing techniques for various types of article. The
idea is that automated design programs can produce designs for
articles meeting individual specifications. Either by himself or in
consultation with an expert, an individual would use the system to
produce a design and display how it would look and possibly how it
would perform. Candidates for individual design include clothing,
furniture, boats, electronic equipment, houses, and even cars. The
system would then produce the instructions for controlling machine
tools, fabric cutters, and also printed instructions for the hand
parts of the operation. In general, it should be possible to make
single objects at little more cost than present mass produced
objects. In some cases, there would even be savings, because mass
production requires estimates of demand that are often wrong
resulting in inventories that are expensive to sell or even have to
be sold at a loss; the cost of this is made up by a general increase
Services that can be offered soon
We could go on listing services that would come to be offered
in a fully developed system, but now we shall list some services to
smaller groups of users that are cheaper to provide and which will
help get the system started.
The development of information utilities is probably inevitable
(unless it is forbidden by law) as soon as costs come down to the
point where it is profitable for time-sharing service bureaus to
offer services to individuals. However, favorable policies will
bring this about sooner and will make the effects better.
- Calculation and facilities for writing, running, and
debugging computer programs. This doesn't interest the general
public much, but it is the present bread and butter of the time-
sharing service bureaus that will grow into the new information
system. At present, these service bureaus offer very convenient way
of doing small scientific and engineering calculations, but do not
offer reasonable prices for big computations, and are only beginning
to offer useful services to business firms.
- Messages. The cost of mail service is going steadily up
and its quality is going steadily down. Already a letter costs more
to send than a local telephone call. The ability to send a written
message that will be seen the next time a user sits down at his
computer terminal has proved very convenient to users of the
Defense Department sponsored ARPA net. Already, if I type
``MAIL MINSKY\$\%MIT-AI When are you coming to California next?'', the
message ``When are you coming to California next?'' will be received
by Minsky at M.I.T. the next time he uses his terminal.
- Editing. Anyone who writes (writers, journalists,
scientists, advertising men, engineers and students) will benefit
from using an editor program. It allows easy revision, can be made
to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and will produce
justified or other forms of elegant output and also indexes. This paper
was edited on the computer including the specification of
in several type fonts.
The document is stored
on disk at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and
any user of the ARPA net can access the latest version using the
- Filing. Keeping personal files in the computer has great
advantages, but some of them must await the ability to enter
other people's documents without retyping them. If they have
been prepared in a computer readable form, it is easy, but someday
a suitable page reader will be available.
- Education. Computer aided instruction (CAI) has advanced
to the point that a number of courses or aids to traditional courses
have been developed and have been shown to be useful. The main
obstacle to the widespread use of CAI is economic, but new
developments in display technology and communications give a
reasonable probability of cost-effective systems within this decade.
There is no special problem in having these systems available in the
home as well as at school. This would be aided by standardizing
course writing languages. Again, we should try to stimulate
competition by encouraging the offering of courses in particular
subjects independent of the schools.
Between us and the home information system lie a number of
problems, some in developing suitable low cost terminals, some in
programming technology of time-sharing, some in the economics and
politics of communication systems, and some in the attitude of the
public and government towards innovation. In the following sections
we shall discuss these problems.
HOW WE GET THERE FROM HERE?
The quality and price of display consoles is rapidly
improving. At present, one can add a display console with keyboard to
our laboratory system for about $500, and to add another port on the
system so that the number of consoles active at one time is increased
by one costs about $1000. A reasonable display console that can be
located at the end of a telephone line now costs about $3,000. These
consoles are adequate for any of the services mentioned in the
previous sections, although for reading purposes, it would be
desirable to be able to display more than 35 typed lines at a time.
In my opinion, the cost of a display terminal
adequate for extensive reading that
can be located at the end of a telephone line will be in the $500 to
$1000 range by 1980 even without a market of the size of the
potential home terminal market. The business, engineering,
science, and government markets will be large enough and price
sensitive enough to bring this about.
Facilities for digital
communications are growing rapidly but in a disorderly way
because of the multiplicity of requirements of the different
applications. Thus credit verification requires
very low cost short communications with turn around times of seconds.
Other uses require very low cost per bit but can stand delays of minutes
and hence are candidates for low performance store and forward
systems. Terminal systems need long holding times, short
response times, and much higher transmission rates from computer
to user than in the other direction.
The speeds of
transmission over present unconditioned voice grade circuits are lower
than one would like for reading. 1200 bits per second takes
20 seconds to transmit a typed page and four times
that for a page of a dictionary. 9600 bits per second is obtained
over conditioned voice grade lines, and this may be
adequate. Another posibility is the transmission technology planned
for the Picturephone service, but
the cost of this service for long holding times is not clear.
The most economical system might be a specially designed
store and forward system configured to give fast turn around for
Computer technology can now offer the services
required for the home terminal at a reasonable cost, provided
computer configurations are optimized for the purpose, provided
reasonable load factors can be obtained, and provided there are
reasonable economies of scale. Unfortunately, IBM computers are
organized in such a way that time sharing is very expensive because
of their interrupt structure, their expensive terminal multiplexors,
and their dedication to the archaic half duplex method of
communication, and their giant, inefficient and almost unchangable
operating systems. The other major computer manufacturers such as CDC,
General Electric, and Univac are not in much better shape since they
offer for time-sharing, machines that were optimized for other
purposes. Smaller companies like DEC are in a somewhat better
position. However, none of these difficulties are permanent, and
better organized computers may be expected once the factors in
computer design that make for good cost-performance in time sharing
become clearer to the manufacturers.
(The non-technical reader is warned that the above views are most likely
Present magnetic disk storage units are
cost-effective for information utilities serving home
terminals. A cheap imitation of the
IBM 3330/11 disk costs about $16.00 at the margin for storing a book
using two-to-one information compression. This is fine for personal
files and for libraries provided we can make one on-line copy replace several
paper copies. This is still rather expensive for private copies of books.
Disk files are continuing to increase in cost-effectiveness,
and much larger storage media are being promoted.
The basic technology of time-sharing is
reasonably well developed, and cost-effective systems have been
written, but there is still a lot of chasing of will-o'-the-wisps, and
bad time-sharing systems are often produced by otherwise
competent organizations. The costs of the programming to offer the
services mentioned in the first part of this paper can be
much reduced by further advances in programming such as:
- The interactive and file reference aspects of programming
languages and time-sharing systems need to be standardized so that an
interactive system written in one system can be used in another that
uses different hardware and a different time sharing system. Without
this it will be very expensive for new user services to get large
markets unless some particular time sharing system gets a monopoly.
- A system needs to be developed for representing text in a
computer that will include the full variety of alphabets, type fonts
and character sizes and also be adaptable to diagrams, drawings and
photographs. The consoles also have to be adapted to this variety of
styles. This is an ultimate requirement; much can be done with texts
that are just regarded as sequences of latin letters.
- The biggest task, however, is the application programming
Fortunately, time-sharing services are not a natural monopoly.
Communication is cheap enough for teletype based time-sharing so that
with local multiplexors, time-sharing bureaus can compete all over the
United States. In principal, it should be possible to have world wide
competition. The major developments that may reduce competition are
(i) if the terminals are supplied by the information utility and
cannot be used with that utility's competitors; and (ii) if the
utility only allows its subscribers to use its own programs and data
files. Therefore, the users should own their own terminals, and the
ownership of programs performing services should be separate from the
ownership of the service bureaus themselves. It is important to have
enough compatibility between different time-sharing systems so that
the owner of a service program can provide it on a number of machines.
It is also important that important files be accessible and modifiable
with suitable protections by actions initiated on other machines than
the one that maintains the file.
Needs for research and development
The hardware required for home consoles will be too expensive
for extensive systems for probably another five years. In the
meantime, research and development should be undertaken in the
Standardization of the interfaces of time-sharing systems
and their languages.
Experimentation with services. At present, it is very
difficult to get support for development of generally useful services
unless either it can be claimed that disaster will result from
failure to support the activity or that the supporting organization
will itself make a profit. This political fact is one of the reasons
for the concentration on military technology in the recent past.
Research aimed at devising ways of co-ordinating the great
variety of time-sharing services into a mutually communicating
network. Neither sufficient understanding nor sufficient political
or commercial force is available to cause the development of
time-sharing services to proceed according to a unified plan.
Nevertheless, computers are flexible enough so that originally
incompatible systems can be made to communicate and use each other's
services. Experiments with the ARPA network that provides
communication among Defense Department sponsored research computers
are providing useful information.
Government created monopoly - most likely inadvertent.
If government regulations remain as they are in May 1976,
home terminals can develop in a freely competitive manner.
The famous Carterphone decision and its extensions permitting
connection of arbitrary devices meeting non-interference standards
to the telephone system is exactly what is required for
However, there are several dangers. First the new communication
companies want to get a share of the data communication business
from AT&T, and this may well take the form of separating a share
of the present market legally, and prescribing who may offer what
services. Since home terminal services don't exist yet, it may
turn out that no-one is allowed to offer the communications they
require. Second, some planners have a limited view of what
services are possible, and want to provide them through a system
based on CATV which has the side effect of making home terminals
a local monopoly of the CATV operator. Thirdly, there are proposals
(New York Times
editorial of April , 1976), to make
electronic mail a monopoly of the Postal Service.
This is the most pernicious of all, because it requires splitting
off a service analogous to present mail service and preventing
anyone except the assigned monopolist from offering any service
that includes it.
Not everyone will agree with the picture of home terminal
services given in this paper, but I hope we can agree that
this and similar ideas shouldn't be precluded by creating new
- Who will get it first? I think it must be accepted that the
first subscribers of information utilities will be well-to-do
people with particular inclinations in that direction. Fortunately,
a telephone based system doesn't need a large fraction of the
households in an area as subscribers in order to make money.
Moreover, the costs of the services in a mature technology will
be low enough so that after the rich have paid the start-up
costs, everyone at an economic level to afford a car will also
be able to afford home terminal service.
- Privacy and security. It is easy to have fantasies about the
government or other large organizations establishing a dictatorship
through their access to everyone's personal data and people doing
each other in with information gained from computerized spying.
In my opinion, the source of dictatorship isn't information but
a monopoly on force and the will to use it. In time-sharing systems
in which security measures have been installed only in response
to actual misuse, rather little has been required.
However, much higher degrees of privacy and security can be
achieved with computerized systems than with manual information systems.
People can encrypt their private information, each use of a file
containing personal data can be recorded in the file, and the systems
that ensure all this can be subject to audit by any organization
concerned with protecting privacy.
- Who will convert the existing literature? Some
writings are have current copyrights, and some are in the public
domain. It would seem that copyright owners should have the option of
converting their property and owning the result. Material in the
public domain could either be converted by the government or by
whoever thinks the public will pay to look at what he chooses to
convert. I will confess a preference for a systematic project to
- What about unauthorized copying? It is very difficult even today
to prevent unauthorized copying of very high priced material. Below
a certain level of price, it is cheaper to pay the price of access
each time a document is read than to pay the storage cost of
maintaining a copy. Eventually the cost of storage compared to the
socially desirable rewards of authorship may get so small that
storing unauthorized copies may become profitable. The limiting
situation is one in which authors have to be paid like scientists for
their work in producing the material after which the results are
freely distributed. I think this day should be postponed as long as
possible but not at the cost of snooping in people's private files or
preventing home terminals.
- Banking today combines two functions: The first is recording who
has what money and transferring it on properly authenticated demand,
and the second end is borrowing money and prudently relending it at higher
interest. The first function may well be a natural monopoly in an
electronic system and the second definitely is not. Therefore it may
become necessary to separate these functions. Once they are separated,
the competition in borrowing and relending money can become
more effectively nationwide.
Legislative action will be necessary to separate these two functions.
SOME RELEVANT EXPERIENCE AND EXPERIMENTS
The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has had a
time-sharing computer system since 1965. Since 1971 we have had
keyboard and display terminals in all offices including those of
secretaries and our business manager; this is still rather uncommon,
because most organizations are committed to unnecessarily expensive
technologies. Since 1972 our computer has been part of the ARPA
Network that connects about 60 laboratories and other installations
supported by the Defense Department.
The main use of the Laboratory's computer system is
research programming in artificial intelligence which is not what
most citizens will use their home terminals for.
However, we also use it for writing, editing and storing reports,
for exchanging messages, and as an aid in administering our project
and facilities, and some of this experience is relevant to home
terminal use. Here are some of our conclusions:
- Office and home use of computers will depend decisively on convenience,
and a terminal in each office is an absolute necessity.
- Inexperience in typing is a psychological hazard for people contemplating
using a computer, but it is not a practical barrier even for people who
have never touched a typewriter.
- The human engineering of the time-sharing system and especially
the editor program very important if the facilities are to be used
casually by non-computer people. Having an adequate small set of
commands is very important, but additional commands for expert
use are fine provided beginners and casual users don't have to
learn them. It is especially important to keep down the number of concepts
that have to be learned.
Having done all this, we find that temporary secretaries filling in
while the regular secretaries are on vacation can use the editor
to prepare documents with help from regular secretaries.
- The ARPA net has a facility for sending messages to users of the
same or other computers on the net. The user is notified of his
message immediately if he is logged into his terminal and the next
time he logs in otherwise. The time required to send a message is
about 10 seconds plus the time required to type it. It is not clear
why, but the written message system is often preferred to the telephone,
to visiting the other person's office or to written notes. Maybe
the reason is that each of the other procedures may be frustrating,
while sending the computer message is always completed promptly, even
though the recipient won't get it unless he logs in.
I receive about 100 messages per month.
- We have an experimental news service using the national news wires
of the Associated Press and the
New York Times
A user can type an expression like ''kissinger-moscow'' and be told that
there are 10 stories containing the word ``Kissinger'' and not containing
the word ``Moscow'' in today's news. The user can then look at whatever
stories he wants to. The service is popular in times of crisis, but
the computer is heavily loaded, so the waits between
stories are often unacceptably long. Experience with the service
emphasizes the shallowness of a news coverage in which reporters file
only stories likely to be chosen for a limited news space that must
contain only items judged to be of general interest.
- We also have two novels stored on disk, and it is quite feasible to
read them on the terminals. The quality is about like bad pulp paper,
and two novels is not much of a library. In compensation, the computer
remembers your place.
I welcome comments. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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