International Business Machines Corp., the world's largest computer powerhouse, will try once again on Tuesday to be welcomed into the American home. Last time IBM tried it barely got beyond the front door.

When Big Blue unveils its new PS/1 computer models, comparisons with its first unsuccessful attempt to entice home computer buyers will be inevitable.

In 1983, at a gala event held in the same Manhattan skyscraper as Tuesday's debut, IBM introduced the PCjr. Sixteen months later, the company stopped making the machine, a decision regarded as a major flop for IBM.

Now IBM, convinced that it has done the requisite homework and market research, is back for another try.

The new entry will start at $999, industry sources said, in an aggressive but risky effort to renew enthusiasm in a market that many analysts say has petered out since its glory days in the early 1980s.

In an attempt to reach people who never thought about computers, IBM will put the PS/1 on the shelves at Sears, Roebuck and Co. and other major department stores, according to industry sources.

Even though Americans aren't rushing to put computers in the rec room today -- less than a quarter of U.S. households have them -- IBM believes that the home is a market that it cannot afford to ignore.

"IBM needs a piece of it," said Chris Carleton, director of client services for McGlinchey & Paul, a marketing research firm based in Lexington, Mass. "IBM has not done real well in the home market. It doesn't want to let Apple walk away with it."

IBM is pinning its hopes for selling to what it calls the "contemporary family" on several models of a machine that is essentially a bare bones version of its more expensive personal computers aimed at businesses.

The PS/1 will be equipped with software for such functions as word processing and financial calculations, and with a mouse -- a hand-held device that many people find more convenient than a keyboard.

One thing that may set the PS/1 apart from its competitors is IBM making its computer the hub for all sorts of shopping selections, banking transactions, career planning advice, and educational courses delivered electronically to the home.

This would be accomplished through on-line services, including those from Quantum Computer Services of Vienna and from Prodigy, a joint effort of IBM and Sears begun in October 1988.

Accessible through a communications device known as a modem, Prodigy offers its subscribers the opportunity to make airline reservations, trade securities and conduct banking without leaving their computers. Prodigy already is available through a separate kit for several models of both IBM and Apple personal computers, but will be packaged inside the PS/1.

Quantum, a $22 million, privately held firm, currently provides entertainment and news and financial services to users of Apple, Commodore and Tandy computers.

While the explosive home computer market of the early 1980s was centered around playing games, industry experts say today's home user is more comfortable with computers and is more likely to want to use the machine as an adjunct to those in the office or classroom.

Nevertheless, some observers remain skeptical. "There is a lot of potential but there is still not the demand in the home," said Paul Zagaeski, an analyst with the Yankee Group, a Boston market research firm.

That's why some analysts are betting IBM has a long-range strategy for the PS/1 that will include uses that are only on the drawing board today.

"They're laying the foundation for what they hope will be a compelling {use} next year or the year after," Zagaeski said. "Nobody knows how that will play out yet."