Computer Column

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Families that own personal computers tend to watch television less than other families, according to a recent Stanford University study. That finding, the researchers say, "suggests that home computers may be more addictive than television."

Of the 77 computer-owning Stanford families surveyed, 56 percent reported no change in television-viewing habits. But 40 percent said they had reduced their television-viewing time by 1.5 hours a day.

The average American family has its television sets turned on for about six hours a day. The families of Stanford faculty and staff members have their sets turned on for about 2.7 hours a day, a previous survey found.

The report--written by Professor of International Communications Everett M. Rogers, and two students, Hugh M. Daley and Thomas D. Wu--was part of a class project involving 59 communications students. The report was published by the Stanford Institute for Communication Research.

About two-thirds of the respondents reported encountering difficulty using the computer. But computer owners encouraged an average of eight people they knew to buy a computer, the study said.

About 41 percent of the respondents said the computer either made their work easier or saved them time on tasks. Seventeen percent said the computer increased their awareness of the technology, and 14 percent said it changed the things they did at home for entertainment.

The computerized student-record system for children of migrant workers may have received a reprieve from federal budget cuts.

The Little Rock-based system--called the Migrant Student Record Transfer Service--holds the academic and health records of more than 700,000 students whose parents' work requires them to change residences frequently.

The Reagan Administration had proposed that migrant programs receive $129 million in the next fiscal year's budget--down from appropriations of $255 million for each of the last three years. Such cuts "would completely destroy the [$4-million annual record] program," said Joseph Miller, its director.

But those cuts apparently have been averted. In the spending resolutions passed this spring, both the Senate and the House of Representatives maintained current funding plus a 5-percent allowance for inflation for migrant programs.

Since the msrts was launched in 1970, it has kept the records of 1.6 million students at an average cost of $3.46 per child, Mr. Miller said. The program's families are concentrated in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, he added.

When the Republican Party's Congressional task force on high technology meets later this month, a Georgia Congressman expects his bill to provide tax writeoffs for the purchase of home computers to be a main topic of discussion.

Newt Gingrich last month introduced a bill that would allow families tax credits of $100 per family member annually over five years for the purchase of home computers. Under the bill, HR 2531, the total credit could not exceed half the retail cost of the computer.

The main purpose of the bill, said Walter C. Jones, executive assistant to Representative Gingrich, is to "pull together" the family by encouraging families to use computers for education and other purposes at home.

The bill is pending before the Ways and Means Committee. No similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, Mr. Jones said.

The Copyright Office of the Library of Congress last week asked for public comment on the idea of excluding software manufacturers from a provision of the federal copyright law that requires publishers to allow public inspection of their products.

Software producers have expressed concern that public access could lead to improper copying of key parts of programs. And educators have said that illegal copying threatens the development of good educational programs. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1983.)

An official of the Copyright Office said such an exemption would probably be modeled after an exemption for standardized examinations. That exemption was successfully defended in last year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The public has until July 18 to respond to the issue, which was outlined last week in the Federal Register.

The responses will be available for further comment on Aug. 15.

A five-student team from the Montclair (N.J.) Kimberley Academy took first place in the fifth annual national competition of the American Computer Science League held earlier this month at Hauppauge High School on Long Island.

The Hauppauge meeting, which involved 40 schools, was the fifth level of competition. Overall, 600 schools in the United States and Canada took part.

The Montclair team won a microcomputer for its school. Finishing second and third, respectively, were Milford High School of Milford, N.H., and the Detroit Country Day School.

In the morning session of the event, the teams were given several questions to answer about topics such as Boolean algebra, numbers theory, and digital electronics. In the afternoon, the teams were given a series of problems that they had to solve by writing programs.

Notes: The commencement speaker at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md., was a robot named "Robot Redford." Actually, the robot did not speak. It rolled to the front of the stage, and its creator spoke into a microphone off-stage. ... Newspaper pages for classified advertisments have been filling up with columns describing used computers for sale. One researcher estimates second-hand sales to be worth as much as $30 million.--ce

Vol. 02, Issue 36

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