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The Control Data Corporation this month announced a large-scale plan to use computers to expand pre-engineering education at 110 colleges and universities--and, eventually, to bring such programs to the high schools.

The company, which officials said will spend $6 million on the program, will donate more than 400 microcomputers and plato software programs to the colleges, which will be selected this spring.

After using the equipment for several months, the colleges will submit proposals for using the plato software for pre-engineering courses in high schools and for developing other computer-based education programs.

Among the subjects to be covered by plato--an acronym for Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations--are calculus, chemistry, computer programming with fortran, electrical engineering, fluid mechanics, physics, thermodynamics, and writing.

There are more than 8,000 hours of instruction--mostly for use in elementary and secondary schools--stored in Control Data's cyber-205 computer in Arden Hills, Minn., company officials said. Those programs are now being converted for use on microcomputers.

The company plans to seek governmental and business aid in increasing the number of plato programs for colleges, officials said.

Students at two Portland, Ore., high schools have been speaking regularly with students in Japan as part of foreign-language classes.

The American Bell Telephone Company last month installed equipment at Lincoln High School and Cleveland High School that gives and receives satellite signals. Students at the schools sit around a table and converse freely for about a half-hour in each session with students in the city of Sapporo.

The project is relatively inexpensive--about $90 a month to rent the "quorem linear ray microphone system," and another $50 for the half-hour toll call.

The "bugs" still have to be eliminated from a similar telecommunications hookup to a school in Moscow, said Colin Karr-Morse, the director of the office of instructional technology for Portland's schools.

The telephone hookup is the latest step in what Mr. Karr-Morse says is the system's attempt to extend technological advances beyond microcomputers. Other projects already under way include training for staff members via cable television and a computer link between the district's magnet business school and governmental agencies.

The system is also considering installing a central computer that can transmit educational programs to home computers. That project, which would require families to buy keyboards to hook up to their tv sets, would offer "totally interactive" programs now usually used with microcomputers.

Union College, a liberal-arts college in Lincoln, Neb., will put a computer terminal in every dormitory room by the fall 1983 semester.

The 1,000-student college will in-stall 450 Applied Digital Data Systems minicomputers in each of two dormitories for word-processing and use in business, science, music, and language courses. The terminals will be connected to the college's Hewlett-Packard mainframe computer.

The idea to give every student regular access to a computer came from the college's president, Dean Hubbard, in a meeting with alumni.

A spokesman for the college said administrators had considered buying microcomputers--the personal computers that have been used more frequently in homes and schools in recent years--but instead opted for minicomputers to allow access to mainframe programs.

For the 300 students who commute to class, the college will continue to operate its computer center with 35 terminals.

The college, which will require students to complete three credit-hours of computer science to graduate, will also encourage teachers to use computers by lending them microcomputers and offering a 30-percent rebate on purchases.

The total cost of the program will be about $500,000, the college spokesman said. Students will help pay for it with a $150 tuition increase and alumni will pay the rest.

A growing number of colleges have announced plans to require each undergraduate to buy a computer.

Under an Industry Department program, Great Britain's 33,000 elementary and secondary schools are acquiring microcomputers for classroom use.

Each of the country's 6,000 high schools already has at least one computer under a subsidization program that was expanded last year to include elementary schools. This second phase will cost about $38 million by next year, an official said.

Under the plan, each school sends two teachers to a microelectronics training program.

If you own a television set, you can start using a computer for about $100. Since Timex Inc. introduced the Sinclair 1000 last September for $99, the company has been challenging Commodore for first place in world computer sales.

The 12-ounce machine--really just a keyboard that can be hooked up to a tv--has a small memory of 2 bytes. It can handle family budgets, small games, and other simple programs. Industry officials have praised the Sinclair as a good way of eliminating many people's fear of computers.

Texas Instruments last month introduced a more powerful machine (4.2 bytes), the ti-99/2 Basic Computer, for $99.95.

The ti machine has a more sophisticated keyboard--with raised keys instead of the Sinclair's flat, pressure-point board--and can be supplemented with more extras like printers. The programs that will be available this spring teach programming in the basic language.

Computers that are priced at just over $100 include Warner Communications' Atari 400, Commodore International's vic-20, and Radio Shack's trs-80/2.--ce

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