Adding up calculators (Electronic calculator market in 1974)
Computers Statewide pools may not yield expected benefits ST. LOUIS The pooling of computer services in statewide networks can provide economies and efficiencies, but it often means loss of local control and may make computer services more expensive and less accessible for some users, concludes of a 12-month study in the U.S. and Canada by Charles Mossmann, director of user services at the University of California at Irvine. Mr. Mossmann conducted the study under a grant from the Exxon Education Foundation. "The ‘network bandwagon' is highly evident in the and provincial capitals,” he said, "and bureaucrats and administrators are scrambling to get on it. 'In nearly one-third of the 60 states and major provinces, decision-makers are guided by an explicit plan-generated at the provincial or state level-for computing in higher education. This plan determines what they will and will not do. ln another third, such a plan is now under development. *** Sharing of Resources "Almost all such plans explicitly call for the sharing of resources between campuses, usually by means of a network constructed specifically for this purpose. "Only 20 states and provinces indicate that their public colleges and universities are totally responsible for their own decisions about computing." Unless there is a strong program of service and consultation for the 'naive and long-distance users," Mr. Mossmann said, state systems tend to be monopolized by the central, on-campus users. Some network systems are successful, he said, mentioning Dartmouth, Iowa, and North Carolina as examples. *** Cooperation a Goal "A return to the ‘one-campus, one-computer' model of the 1960's is just out of the question,” he said. "The alternatives simply provide too many opportunities for both quality and economy of operations. "I think it is not an unreasonable goal to strive for meaningful cooperation Reprinted with permission from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 5, 1974. between colleges and universities,'for networks that will spread resources to the have-nots and that will enrich the opportunities available to those in a position to use them. "This cooperation can emerge between institutions and should not have to be imposed on unwilling colleges by an authoritarian governance. "Computing, in its current stage of development, is uniquely a substance that can be shared. If we are the custodians of the first academic resource which can in fact be shared despite geography, and are the first agents to attempt such sharing on a large scale, it is no wonder we are having trouble. We have no model on which to build. In fact, we may be constructing models that have importance and implication beyond our vision.” Mr. Mossmann discussed his findings at a meeting of EDUCOM- the lnteruniversity Communications Council of Princeton, N.J.-which sponsored his study. Computers tend to be unpopular on campuses, said Ronald Roskens, chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and he blamed higher education for allowing alienation and antipathy toward computers to develop among faculty members and students. "We are suffering the consequences of a fairly high degree of computer illiteracy," he said. "In my judgment,” he continued, "there is no single force that has had greater impact upon the style and the operation of American colleges and universities in the last half-century than computer technology." Although he found a lack of trust in computers within the academic community, Mr. Roskens assigned computers an important role in helping higher education to regain public tmst through improvement of institutional management. The Omaha chancellor suggested that computer personnel could improve their image by avoiding exaggerated claims of what computer systems can do and how fast they can do it and by avoiding "esoteric jargon.” 30 Every college graduate ought to have some degree of computer literacy, said Gerard Weeg, director of the University of Iowa computer center and chairman of the EDUCOM conference. *** Proliferation of Small Computers He said there are approximately l0,000 computers in use in educational institutions now. It has been predicted that by l980 computing may be the world's largest industry, he said. It's hard for bureaucracy to keep abreast of technology. A computer problem discussed at the conference here was reminiscent of the multiplication of copying machines that hampered attempts to centralize campus printing. Now, directors of centralized computer services, see a threat in the proliferation of small machines of increasing sophistication. Calculators have developed from mechanical adding machines to electronic, integrated-circuit packages that will perform all kinds of mathematical chores, some of them following computer-like programs fed to them on magnetic tape or cards, and costing up to $12,000. Leland Williams, president of Triangle Universities Computation Cen'ter, said that one of the universities in his group now had about five programmable calculators that slipped through a screen designed to guard against the proliferation of computer facilities. "When is a programmable calculator a computer?" Mr. Williams asked. -JACK MAGARRELL *** Adding up calculators The electronic calculator became a billion-dollar market at retail last year, according to a study by Creative Strategies. The biggest share ol the market was held by consumer calculators, of which 7 million were sold. Some 3.5-million of last year's unit sales were business calculators. and another 300,000 were in the "professional" category. The study indicated that the market for consumer calculators would grow about 50% this year, in terms of dollar volume, more in terms of units, due to declining prices. Component costs for calculators have dropped sharply, LC chips falling from an average of $30 in 1970 to about $5 currently LED displays, which cost calculator manufacturers slightly less than one dollar per digit, will be closer to 50 cents before the year is over..