Jim Decker of Modesto, Calif., listed an immersion freeze-heat peeling process for fruits and vegetables on Technotec, Control Data's technology exchange subsidiary. Within a few months, he had negotiated licenses for the new process in Norway, Poland, Spain, Japan and the United States.
"The Poles," said Decker, "are interested in the process to french-fry potatoes and ship them to a Western European market; a Norwegian company is interested in the process for fish."
The Technotec listing cost him only $68 and a few telephone calls. The process inventor, Decker estimates, soon will be earning $200,000 to $300,000 annually from the sales of his quick-freeze immersion machine.
Ed Harvey of Arlington, Va., an electrical enginner and a maker of wooden toys, searched Technotec for queries on woodworking. He found that a group of woodworkers in Caracas, Venezuela, were seeking a process for bending wood without its splitting or cracking.
Harvey's answer to the query required only a week's research here among literature from chemical companies and the USDA, but he provided the Venezuelans with information unavailable in Caracas and earned himself about $350 for the effort.
Matching a technological process and its potential user is the aim of Technotec, a technology transfer operation that is the first to make use of a worldwide computer network.
The technology data is banked and retrieved from the Control Data Corp.'s $1 billion Cybernet network, which has more than 5,000 computer terminals in more than 150 cities in 15 countries.
Technotec was set up a year ago to take advantage of that network and to foster Control data president William Norris' personal interest in technology transfer. According to Ralph Sheehy, a Control Data spokesman, the purpose of communicating technologies is to prevent time being wasted by "a reinvention of the wheel."
Sheehy calls Techntec "a yellow pages of technology." An inventor of a new process or technique can list his brainchild on Technotec for a year at $100 for a 1,000 character description. Someone looking for the service can search the Technotec data bank, using a telephone or telex connection to a computer terminal, for an average charge of $8 to $10, according to the time involved.
If a searcher finds a process he believes will be useful or a query he believes he can answer, the fee is usually $50 for a contact.
In a single year of operation, Technotec has listed some 11,000 different technologies from 270 countries, according to Sheehy.
The Soviet Union has 47 listings. About 10 U.S. agencies - uncluding NASA (with 37 technologies), the Energy Research and Development Agency, the National Science Foundation and the Maritime Administration - are users of Technotec.
The French atomic energy committee has listed descriptions in energy, chemistry, metallurgy and pollution control. Volkswagen in West Germany has described a portable solar radiation collector and a new pulse measurement inatrument for medical use. India has described how to produce baby food from buffalo milk and caffeine from tea waste.
Listings on the Technotec data bank are described not as products but as processes. A search for the Technotec system using the key wirds "fish . . . freeze . . . food", for example, turned up the process that Decker listed.
Control Data spokesman say they have no way of knowing how many searchers have used the Technotec system Philip J. Bifulk, president of Technotec, said that revenues from the Control Data subsidiary are included in the company's product-line catagory, which last year showed a profit of $500 million. "We do not break down revenue figures below that level," he said.
According to Bifulk, more Americans are looking for foreign technology than there are foreign countries countries looking for American technology.
Most exchanges on Technotec are still domestic, however. Recently the technology transfer system arranged a waste exchange service in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to match up companies that have a use for the same waste products.
Zinc sludge slurry, from an electro-plating company, was the first item listed - and the next day a paint manufacturer was searching the computer data bank for a waste product he could use as a source of zinc for pigments. He found it: zinc sludge slurry.