Technology: The Cybernated Generation

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The world's biggest single user of computers is the U.S. Government, which spends $1 billion a year to buy, rent and maintain 1,767 machines—not including most of the top-secret machines used by the Pentagon. "The electronic computer," President Johnson said recently, "has enabled the Government to carry out programs which otherwise would have been impossible." Computers make out 95% of the Government's paychecks, keep track of all the G.I. shoes, socks and weapons all over the world, register the course, direction and speed of all shipping in the North Atlantic and, this year for the first time, have begun to check all business income tax returns and a third of individual returns. The White House is experimenting with computers to keep track of men and women available for high Government jobs.

Computers have helped scientists to discover more than 100 new subatomic particles, and are busy analyzing strange radio signals from outer space. Biochemists have used the computer to delve into the hitherto unassailable secrets of the human cell, and hospitals have begun to use it to monitor the condition of patients. Computers now read electrocardiograms faster and more accurately than a jury of physicians. The Los Angeles police department plans to use computers to keep a collection of useful details about crimes and an electronic rogue's gallery of known criminals. And in a growing number of schools, computers have taken jobs as instructors in languages, history and mathematics.

Also the Seven Dwarfs. All this has meant fast growth for the large U.S. industry that makes computers. In the U.S. 21 companies now turn out the machines, and their production and sales ($5 billion last year) provide jobs for 650,000 people. This year they will put at least 8,000 more computers into operation. The industry offers 250 commercial models of machines, ranging in price from the $8,800 Data Systems DSI-1000 to the $4,300,000 Control Data 6600, and in size from the 59-lb. IBM computer aboard Gemini to machines as heavy as 180,000 Ibs.

IBM is far and away the leader in the field, both in the U.S. and abroad. It has so far installed 13,000 computers in the U.S. and another 3,000 in Western Europe, where industry and laboratories are just beginning to computerize. The payoff: 74% of the U.S. computer market, a dominance that leads some to refer to the industry as "IBM and the Seven Dwarfs." The dwarfs, small only by comparison with giant IBM: Sperry Rand, RCA, Control Data, General Electric, NCR, Burroughs, Honeywell. The computers have also spawned the so-called "software" industry, composed of computer service centers and independent firms that program machines and sell computer time (for as little as $10 an hour) to businesses that do not need a machine fulltime.

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