Thursday, January 13, 2011

We Peek At The Future

March 1968
  The day may not far off when you’ll go into a local office—, say, the Suburban Travel Service— and ask them for two tickets to next Wednesday night’s performance of “Hello Dolly” in New York City.
  A girl sits down to the over-sized typewriter and types out the request. Within seconds, a printed reply comes out of the machine saying that tickets are available, where the seats are located and what they will cost.
  You say you’ll take them. The operator relays the message.
Within a few more seconds, there is another clatter of activity inside the machine and out pops two blue tickets to “Hello Dolly.” The tickets state the name of the show, time, place and seat number. You fork over the cash and within minutes you’re on your way.
  Sound fantastic?
  While Rochester is not yet linked up with such a system, one is in operation in New York City. Soon, Chicago and Los Angeles will be plugged into the transcontinental network. You can expect Detroit to follow soon after and then feeder systems will spread into the suburbs and out-state cities.
  ROCHESTER HAS A vital role in the system being developed by Ticket Reservation System, Inc. The Rochester Division of Control Data Corp. is to build 1,000 of the desktop printer units. These units will have a keyboard to transmit the messages. Inside will be unprinted rolls of tickets,. When the local operator asks for information about tickets in Detroit, New York or Chicago, the central computer knows exactly what seats are available for every performance.
  Visiting Control Data last week, I got a look at one of the ticket printers that General Manager William Poland foresees as the answer to a dream of the entertainment world. “Electronic box offices” will be used to buy seats to all reserve-seat events— sports, the legitimate theatre, concerts, motion pictures, college football games and other spectator activities.
  There’s one more prediction emerging from this story. Computer makers are saying that some day there will be computers small enough and cheap enough that people will be able use them in their homes. Does this mean you’ll also be able to order up those show tickets right from your living room? If so, just how are we going stuff our money into our computer machine to pay for them?
  AND YET ANOTHER question. What if we don’t have the exact change to pay for the tickets? Will your computer be able to spit out the change?
  I hope the Control Data folks are already working on that at their plant on North Rochester Road. Just don’t ask me to solve it for them. I’m already busy trying to figure out how a computer can eliminate my typewriter here at the office.
  Of course, if they become smart enough to do my typing and print it out on a piece of paper, they may eventually just take over my entire job. I’ve just decided to scratch that not-too-brilliant idea.