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  1. Technology
May 26, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

The Prodigy Services Co joint venture of IBM Corp with Sears, Roebuck & Co (we don’t hear quite so much about what a big failure Prodigy is these days, do we: watch out for the first heavyweight US newspaper article hailing it as one of IBM’s few really successful joint ventures!) announced that it has developed and plans to launch a suite of new interactive services created for personal computers connected to broadband coaxial cable of the kind owned in vast quantities by cable television operators. Deployment of the new services will begin in the next few months and will involve several of the leading US multiple service operators, including Media General Inc, Cox Cable Communications Inc, Viacom Inc, Comcast Inc and others. Prodigy reckons it is the first on-line services company to develop and offer such a service, and it demonstrated it at the National Cable Television Association show down there in steamy New Orleans. The new services use Prodigy as a base, and are delivered 50 to 1,000 times faster than over conventional telephone lines with a 9,600bps modem. Enhanced multimedia means that where with telephone-based Prodigy for Windows, subscribers read a story, then push a button to see a photograph, which is painted on their screen in seconds, in the cable services, photo and story are delivered together almost instantly, much like a traditional magazine page. Another enhancement to the cable services is integrated sound, delivering speech, music (from a guitar to full orchestra) and other sound effects mixed just like they would be in a major motion picture (or even a B-picture starring Ronald Reagan). Media General just announced that it will offer Prodigy for cable to 209,000 homes in the Fairfax County, Virginia area. Cox Cable, which is currently testing a version of the service in San Diego, says it will expand availability there and to other markets not yet announced: in total Prodigy says it already has commitments to offer its cable-based services to well over 500,000 US homes.

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