Let the computer do the work (1978)

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Tired of home figuring? Let the computer do it

by Lynette Parker

If your schedule is too hectic to worry with the details of life such as the balancing of your checking account, or if one more game of checkers with the kids will drive you crazy, for a small investment you can now buy a computer to do the things you don’t want to do.

For around $800, any family can buy a home computer that has “as much computer power as an IBM 1620, the workhorse of the 1950s,” according to Huron Smith, owner of the Madison Computer Store, 1863 Monroe St.

Smith said the computer will do practically anything you tell it to do, but it never does anything on its own.

“They’re absolutely stupid,” she said. “They have no smarts of their own. They have to be programmed.” A home computer can be programmed with ordinary words so a buyer doesn’t need any special skills.

The domestic variety of computers are programmed with BASIC language, which in computer talk is simple English. Len Lindsay, a salesman at the Computer Store, said, “The name implies it’s very easy; it took me three days to learn it.”

Since May, more than 40 Madison families have turned over their tedious memory and budget chores to their computers. More and more Madison families are programming machines to keep track of Aunt Minnie’s birthday and the grandparents’ anniversary. Keeping up with the addresses of mobile friends is now the computer’s job. And it’s no problem to plan for four dinner guests, she can relegate that duty to the machine.

The computers are unbeatable as managers of household finances. With programs such as Financial Analysis, Loan Amortization, Budget and Decision Maker, something as simple as balancing a checking account is a breeze.

Besides entertaining kids with such games as Chase, Blockade, and Battleship, the computer can be programmed to be the dealer in Blackjack, Spades and Acey Deucy.

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The computer is also an able educator. There are programs to teach children to tell time, and programs for math games, decimal division, history quizzes and to tutor morse code.

Lindsay said computers are perfect for kids who need a high level of motivation because computers can be programmed to offer any type of reward from words of praise flashed on the screen to shooting stars.

The interest in home computers is growing and the type of people who are interested is changing, Lindsay said. “Until about a year ago they were all these computer types. Now they’re people coming in who don’t have the faintest idea what a computer is.”

He said the people purchasing computers right now are usually people with advanced educations because they’re reading the magazines and are aware of home computers.

But, Lindsay said, “as soon as regular people know about it, they’re the people who will probably benefit most.” A computer is undoubtedly a very simple way to keep track of financial records, he explained.

Once you get your computer home, you can add accessories. According to Lindsay, a lot of people in Madison are adding sound. It only takes two wires and costs about $10.

Anyone who comes into the store and tinkers with the machines for half an hour wants to have one, Lindsay said. “It’s a time saver,” he said. “It’ll do all the hard things for you plus, as a side benefit, you can sit and play games for free.”

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