By the year 2010, 1986 --
at the latest -- the newspaper you're reading right now will come to your home or office in "interactive" form. Today, those of us who write the paper do all the talking; in a few decades, you'll be talking back.
This newspaper might still be available then in the form of words printed on paper, but most people will choose to receive their papers electronically. You'll wake up and see the morning paper projected on the ceiling over your bed or on a window built into the breakfast table. It will not be just words on a computer screen, like the primitive Videotext systems available today. By then, enhanced display technology will give you a sharp, full-color image of any page of the daily paper -- the pictures, the headlines, the advertisements and, most important, the computer column.
Some virtues are obvious: no more ink-stained fingers, no more brutal family battles because the kids snatched the comics page before Dad got to read Bloom County (the kids will read the newspaper on screens of their own, where the funnies will be in color seven days a week).
But the most profound change in the daily newspaper experience will be that an electronic newspaper will let you talk back to us as you read the paper. You think the author of the lead editorial is a far-out lefty weirdo? Bang it out on your keyboard and let her know how you feel -- instantly. You think today's computer column is stunning in its brilliance? (Nobody ever thinks that, but I can dream.) Type out a message saying so, and I'll receive it a few picoseconds later.
For now, though, our only modes of interaction are the telephone and the U.S. mail. I am grateful to the many readers who "interact" with me using these antique mechanisms, and I feel guilty that I can't answer individually every time. Today, I'll try to respond to some comments I've received.
Users of the Leading Edge Model D community have responded, rather heatedly, to my mildly disparaging remarks about that popular Korean-made IBM-PC clone.
I noted that some software programs and peripheral equipment made for the IBM-PC will not work on the Model D, despite its claim of "full" compatibility. Many readers pointed out to me -- and they're right, too -- that this problem will almost certainly go away. The Model D is selling so well that it is now quite important to software publishers and peripheral manufacturers to see to it that their products will run on the Leading Edge machine.
Lots of people responded in shock to my recommendation that you can cheaply increase the installed RAM memory of many personal computers by replacing the 64-kilobyte RAM chips that came with the machines with 256K chips. Many readers replied, in essence, that the very idea of opening up their computer and replacing chips was terrifying.
But why? If you can replace a light bulb, you have all the technical skill required to pull one memory chip out of your computer and replace it with another. As I noted, the various 256K replacement kits on the market provide instructions that are easy to follow. The job took less than 15 minutes on each of my computers.
Sadly, I must report that there is still no memory-upgrade kit for the IBM PC. (There are kits available for the IBM-XT, the IBM portable and most IBM clones.) Surprisingly, I learned that the Capital PC Users' Group has found an outfit -- Micro Services Co. of Hunt Valley, Md. -- that offers a fairly cheap way to upgrade an IBM PCjr., of all things, to a hefty 640 kilobytes of RAM memory.
Several readers zapped me for boosting Softklone Inc., the software house that produces "Mirror," a $50 clone of the well-known $195 communications program called "Crosstalk." The critics' argument was that Mirror is basically a rip-off product, and that I should not encourage you to patronize such a blatant copy of another company's work.
I don't see it that way. The folks who made Mirror clearly have copied some of the design of Crosstalk -- but they've added improvements and slashed the price as well. That's what's known as capitalism, and I'm all for it.
My occasional suggestions in this space that Americans should deliberately seek and buy American-made computers always draw a heated response. Tallying up all the letters that have come in, I find that I get more disagreement than assent to this simple idea. Leaving aside the merits of either side of this argument, doesn't it say something interesting about our country that many people respond in anger to the proposition that Americans should buy American?