A high-speed data transmission system, hailed as the "worlds first communicating copier" and a way for large business to improve productivity dramatically, was unveiled yesterday by Satelite Business Systems and AM International.
The system, which utilizes laser scanning and satellite communication, is designed to speed messages -- company mail, documents, memos and diagrams, for example -- around the country in seconds.
Designed primarily for large firms, the system created by the two companies combines a copier with the capability of beaming signals to similar machines, which in turn can reproduce large numbers of documents and sort them before distribution.
At a briefing at an SBS office in Reston, officials of both companies praised the system as one of the first demonstrated of the use of new communications technology in creating the widely publicized "office of the future."
"The office costs of communications and information-processing are large and growing, creating a need for more efficient, cost-effective systems," said Robert Hall, president of SBS, a McLean-based satellite communication Firm.
"As a result, there is a little doubt that advanced applications such as electronic document distribution systems, computer-to-computer communications, and video teleconferencing will become business realities in the 1980s," Hall said.
Roy Ash, chairman of AM International, a California manufacturer of copier and technical equipment, said the new system "hurdles the long-distance barriers of time and distance to afford the kind of information distribution essential to true productivity gains in the office of the future."
Ash said that contrary to "some earlier crystal-ball views of the office of the future," there is no evidence that suggests that office work ultimately will become paperless.
"There will continue to be lots and lots of paper" in offices during the coming decade, said Ash, director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Nixon administration.
"We may more and more massage the information and manage its flow electronically, but paper will continue to be the most commonly used method of conveying information that last few critical feet to the ultimate consumer -- the human eye and brain," Ash said.
Although other firms have developed similar high-speed copying systems, and satellite companies have come up with ways of distributing data quickly, the SBS-AM system is the first announced program that combines the technologies so that materials can be transmitted and duplicated simultaneously.
SBS selected AM for a contract on the project a year ago, after reviewing bids from about 60 others.
But the two firms don't plan on jointly marketing the system, which is capable of transmitting about 10 million bits of information a second and which offers a data-storage capacity about 100 times greater than that of a conventional telephone line.
The new system could be in use some time next year, after SBS' scheduled launching of its first satellite this fall.
The company, which is a $400 million partnership involving International Business Machines Corp., Aetna Life and Casualty Co. and Communcations Satellite Corp., was set up largely to market modern communications services to large corporations. The company already has signed five large corporations as customers.