The Best of Creative Computing Volume 2 (published 1977)

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The $2.98 Computer Library (videodisc players and home computers, inexpensive home computer software, cutting a videodisc master with a laser)
by Arthur Luehrmann

graphic of page

The $2.98 Computer Library

by Arthur Luehrmann
Director, Project COMPUTe

A BASIC interpreter plus all the programs in the Dartmouth library, ready to run
on your home computer, for
$2.98? Space-war, in full color with sound effects and electronic music, right
in your living room? A complete, conversational,interactive program to teach you
French in 100
lessons-all for $5.00 and ready for your computer?

Does this sound absurdly futuristic? Well, it may not be
as far off as it appears. First, let's think about the idea of a
home computer. Most people already own about a fourth of
one. One's color TV set is a rather good display device and
every computer needs one of those.

Many people will soon be buying another fourth of their
home computer in the form of a videodisc player. Of course,
they won't be thinking of it as a piece of a computer, but a
videodisc really is a random-access read-only memory with
a capacity of about 1O'° bits. In addition to pictures and
sound it can contain computer instructions and data. And it
will cost only a few dollars per disc.

Well, that's half the job. The missing part is the processor, memory and
keyboard, of course; and it's hard to see
why people would want to spend much money for these
items, But is it so hard after all? They buy TV sets for their
entertainment, They will buy videodisc players for the same
reasons. Perhaps entertainment will, in part, motivate
buying the rest of the family computer. Everyone knows that
computers play pretty good games. People are already
paying $100 or more for electronic games like Pong and
Odyssey that can only do one or two things. A general purpose game player has
all the attributes of a general purpose computer.

The attractiveness of games, augmented by utility computational programs and
educational programs will stimulate the spread ofthe home computer. And the
spread of the
private computer will create the demand for new software-new games, new
utilities, and new courseware. ln
the course of time widespread demand will provide the
economic incentive for authors of software and courseware to write new or
improved programs.

The videodisc process may be as important to the publishing and distribution of
non-verbal information as
movable-type printing was to the written word, ln both
cases mechanical stamping replaces tracing, whether by
monks or magnetic tape recorders.

So don't be surprised in a few years, friends, to find advertisements in the
newspaper for Software Specials at
your local supermarket. I can see it now: "A Golden OldieFORTRAN-a Closeout
Bargain at $1.49-sorry, no refunds!!!"


Cutting a videodisc master with a laser. In quantity, discs can be produced for
4O cents although after programming, packaging, royalties,marketing and
distribution, the selling price will be closer to $10 (Photo courtesy

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