Computers for the home have been envisioned by science fiction writers and engineers ever since a huge, unwieldy prototype was developed 25 years ago. The whole futuristic age they prophesied, with an omnipotent electronic monster named Horace in every living room, is still a long way from realization, but compact consumer computers have quietly entered the household. While the market hardly rivals TV sets or refrigerators, the computer-as-home-appliance is now more than just a toy for the wealthy or a mysterious instrument for technical specialists.
Those pioneer families who have one, like the Theodore Rodmans of Ardmore, Pa., have discovered their obedient machine can perform a large variety of useful functions. Dr. Rodman originally brought it home for medical research, but then his family found it could also plan mortgage payments, help out with homework, even play with the children. Although the cost is still high, computers like theirs have come within possible reach of a two-car family budget. A small, self-contained model is available for $8,000, complete. The Rodmans’ computer system, called time-sharing, uses a Teletype terminal connected to a big central unit via telephone. It costs $110 a month to rent, plus $7.50 per hour of use.