"A note of skepticism on those voguish new classroom toys," interfaces "long-time local advertising man" Irv Shapiro about a story on kids and computers.

"Some 20 years ago I was able to observe the same hoopla at work by hardware manufacturers in loading up schools with gadgets called language labs . . . They soon became monstrous, almost Rube Goldberg-ish contraptions. Teachers were faced with enormous operating and control consoles . . . the hastily built systems often broke down . . .

"The early-'60s language-lab excitement produced a lot of educational nonsense known as 'programmed instruction,' self-teaching gadgetry, allowing students to proceed 'at their own pace.' This magic phrase is au courant again, with the classroom computer."

Shapiro says he is particularly irked by the TV ads showing kids supposedly dazzled into learning to read through the flashing of a word on a screen. "It's no different from the flash-card method, only a lot more gee whiz."

Instead of school systems loading up with costly hardware, Shapiro would like to see employers doing the buying for more on-the-job training.

And then he signs off with this bit from a Harper's writer as a low-cost alternative to the classroom computer:

"An information retrieval system, based on a 26-element matrix, which stores information in geometric array on thin membranes. Both sides of the membranes are used. The membranes are configured into a serially arranged design, with either random or ordered digital access. The system is called BOOK."