Apple Computer Wizard Unveils Newest Brainchild
The sophisticated new microcomputer unveiled last week by Steven P. Jobs, the electronics pioneer who helped found Apple Computer Inc., is not expected to make an immediate impact on precollegiate education, but could be a harbinger of developments to come, industry experts said.
Mr. Jobs unveiled his latest brainchild--the Next Computer System--before a crowd of 3,000 onlookers in San Francisco. It consists of a black cube connected to a screen capable of producing black-and-white images of photographic quality.
The machine is among the first to employ "multi-media technologies,'' which allow it not only to reproduce text, but also to animate images on the screen and produce complex sound effects.
According to published reports, the Next System's sound quality is comparable to that of compact-disk players, and its built-in software includes Webster's 9th Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and the complete works of Shakespeare.
The optical-disk memory of the computer is capable of storing about 10 times the information that an ordinary personal computer can on its magnetic disks.
"I would guess that a fair number of leading school-district types will be interested in this machine, but it's not aimed at them," said James Mecklenburger, director of the Na8tional School Boards Association's Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education.
Although Mr. Jobs could not be reached last week for comment, a spokesman for his Palo Alto, Calif., company said the primary market for the device "from now until further notice is higher education."
The system is still in the early stages of software development, the spokesman added, noting that widespread shipments are not expected until later next year.
"I think it will be useful across the full range of disciplines, all the way from art to engineering," said Douglas Van Houweling, vice provost for information technology at the University of Michigan.
Michigan is among the postsecondary institutions considering purchasing some of the new microcomputer systems, which are expected to cost $6,500 each.
Mr. Van Houweling agreed that the Next system, and similar systems likely to be produced by competitors, probably will not have an immediate impact on elementary and secondary schools until the price drops considerably.
But both he and Mr. Mecklenburger said that the Next computer could eventually follow the route of the Apple Macintosh, which Mr. Jobs also developed. That computer was designed primarily for the postsecondary market, but is now is being used by some schools.--pw