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Such social problems are not the lault of the computer, of course, but a consequence of the way the American society might use the computer. "Even in the days of the big mainframe computers, they were a machine for the few," says Katharine Davis Fishman, author of The Computer Establishment. "It was a tool to help the rich get richer. It still is to a large extent.
One of the great values of the personal computer is that smaller concerns, smaller organizations can now have some of the advantages of the bigger organizations."
How society uses its computers depends greatly on what kind of computers are made and sold, and that depends, in turn, on an industry in a state of chaotic growth Even the name of the product is a matter of debate: "microcomputer" sounds too technical, but "home computer" does not fit an office machine. "Desktop" sounds awkward, and "personal computer" is at best a compromise. Innovators are pushing off in different directions.
Hewlett Packard is experimenting with machines that respond to vocal commands; Osborne is leading a rush toward portable computers, ideally no larger than a book. And for every innovator, there are at least five imitators selling copies.
There is much talk of a coming shakeout, and California Consultant David E. Gold predicts that perhaps no more than a dozen vendors will survive the next five years At the moment, Dataquest estimates that Texas Instruments leads the low-price parade with a 35% share of the market in computers selling for less than $ 1 000 Next come Timex (26%), Commodore (15%) and Atari (13%). In the race among machines priced between $1,000 and $5 000, Apple still commands 26%, followed by IBM (17%) and Tandy/Radio Shack (10%). But IBM, which has dominated the mainframe computer market for decades, is coming on very strong. Apple, fighting back, will unveil its new Lisa model in January, putting great emphasis on user friendliness. The user will be able to carry out many functions simply by pointing to a picture of what he wants done rather than typing instructions. IBM is also reported to be planning to introduce new machines in 1983, as are Osborne and others.
Just across the horizon, as usual, lurk the Japanese. During the 1970s, U.S. computer manufacturers complacently felt that they were somehow immune from the Japanese combination of engineering and salesmanship that kept gnawing at U.S. auto, steel and appliance industries. One reason was that the Japanese were developing their large domestic market. When they belatedly entered the U.S. battlefield, they concentrated not on selling whole systems but on particular sectors—with dramatic results. In low-speed printers using what is known as the dot-matrix method the Japanese had only a 6% share of the market in 1980; in 1982, they provided half the 500,000 such printers sold in the US Says Computerland President Ed Faber: "About 75% of