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March 29, 1989

NEC UK PUTS ITSELF ON SHOW, BUT IT’S MORE COMMUNICATIONS THAN COMPUTERS

By CBR Staff Writer

Computers and Communications was the theme of the NEC Corp’s exhibition at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel last week, an event that reflected the Tokyo-based company’s aim to target this market in the UK. More a corporate show of strength than a platform for new product launches, the exhibition nevertheless had some interesting offerings, all of which reveal NEC’s commitment to the integration of computers and communications. The IST-500 prototype multi-media terminal is one such example. Currently under development in preparation for the ISDN era, the terminal incorporates an AT-compatible personal computer, a standard 2B+D interface, mouse, videophone, document scanner and charge coupled device colour camera. Its screen can be used either as a video or personal computer screen, and has a refresh rate of eight seconds. Using the scanner, documents on screen can be faxed from user to user, while changes can be made using the mouse. Still in its infancy, the terminal is unlikely to appear before 1990 or 1991, and may be marketed as a personal computer add-on. Much closer on the horizon is the home bus system, designed to perform literally any security or electrical function around the house. The system consists of a Home Controller, Telecontroller, a portable Subcontroller and various sensors. These perform a variety of functions such as monitoring the depth and heat of the householder’s bathwater, sounding the alarm should there be a gas leak, switching electrical appliances on and off, and spot checking visitors to the house via a television entryphone. The most interesting aspect of this system is its use of spread spectrum technology, a technique for transmitting data simultaneously over a wide band of channels or frequencies on the AC power line. This reduces interference levels, and makes the system easy to install in existing buildings. NEC Japan is hoping to collaborate with other systems manufacturers over the introduction of the Home Bus System to Europe. In particular, cultural differences and the need to standardise the various elements of the system must be considered before it is released onto the market. When it finally becomes available, it will be aimed at apartment blocks, or groups of houses, rather than the single user. Its estimated cost is predicted to be from UKP3,000 to UKP5,000. Finally, on the computer peripherals side, NEC launched its new 5682 760Mb 5.25 Winchester drive, with data access time of 16mS. It comes with ESD Interface, and can be host-adapted to SCSI or SMD. Available now, the price is subject to negotiation. There were no proper computer launches at the exhibition, which has led some to suggest that NEC is less than serious about the UK computer market above the personal computer level. NEC believes it has found its level, however, emphasising the need to link corporate technology in readiness for 1992 – and it intends to challenge Compaq Computer Corp for supremacy.

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