Robots, Computers Gather Downtown

Mini-computers Crowd Trade Exhibition

The latest gadgets in computer technology--including machines that walk, talk, type and speak foreign languages--were on display this weekend at Boston's Hynes Auditorium.

The Northeast Personal and Business Computer Show drew well over a hundred computer firms, exhibiting products that ranged from "space-war" games to "glitch detectors" (computer program troubleshooters), and from musical synthesizers to mobile robots.

Reggie, a four-foot-high cylinder with a blue plastic dome on top, wandered through the crowds, holding conversations with children and promoting one company's energy conservation system.

"Dancing Machine"

He played disco music over his loudspeaker and danced to it, whirling about to the beat.


"You're very beautiful," a young woman said to Reggie.

"You're not bad-looking yourself," he replied in a resonant metallic voice. "Before you leave, would you please kiss my dome?"

Roll, Jordan

Most exhibitors were promoting mini-computer systems, which small businesses are beginning to use for bookkeeping, "word-processing," and information storage. Some systems sell for under $1000.

But these mini-computers, many of which are as small as an office electric typewriter with a small TV screen on top, can also play games. One company at the show sold "software" packages--computer programs--for tarot cards, "Pirate Adventure," "Magic Isle," and the classic "Star Trek."

B-School Grads

Some business executives buy small computers for their companies and then take them home in the evening to play games, Alex Aaron of Aaron Associates, a software firm, said yesterday.

P & H Linguistics displayed a language-translation system with a vocabulary of over 17,000 French words. A voice synthesizer hooks up to the computer and "speaks" the French or English sentence.

Rochester Data Incorporated showed a device that fits over an IBM typewriter keyboard and allows a computer to type through a normal typewriter instead of an electronic terminal.

Another company offered a musical synthesizer that not only played the "Masterpiece Theater" theme or "Stars and Stripes Forever" over its loudspeakers, but also projected the score to the music it was playing onto a three-foot video screen.

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