Dispatch to merge with Fleet CallBethesda's Dispatch...

TECHNOLOGY & COMMUNICATION

December 28, 1992|By Steve Auerweck

Dispatch to merge with Fleet Call

Bethesda's Dispatch Communications Inc. announced last week that it has agreed to merge with Fleet Call Inc. of New Jersey in a transaction valued at about $320 million.

Fleet and Dispatch are the nation's second- and third-largest operators of specialized mobile radio systems -- mobile telephone, dispatch, paging and data services.

Dispatch, a privately held company with about 150 employees, serves four regions, according to its chairman, Christopher Rogers. In the East, it offers service from Maine through Connecticut and from southern New Jersey to Norfolk, Va.

Fleet provides coverage in the gap -- Connecticut, New York and northern New Jersey

Mr. Rogers explained that the present systems depend on high antennas that reach a 20- to 40-mile-wide coverage area.

But, he said, "we're building a digitally based system that will essentially be a seamless system," handing off from station to station the way cellular phone systems do.

The combined companies will also handle markets in Texas, from Chicago to Minneapolis in the Midwest, and in California and Arizona in the West.

The companies' directors have agreed to a tax-free merger that is still subject to approval by shareholders. The deal is expected to be closed by the second quarter.

Firm to help speed veterans' benefits

Veterans who turn to the government for benefits have long known how easy it is to get snarled in problems with records processing. Now, a Bethesda company will take the lead in applying new technology to speed delivery of benefits.

Federal Data Corp. will be the prime contractor in an eight-year modernization of the Veterans' Benefits Administration's data processing systems -- a deal that could be worth as much as $300 million. The VBA is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Federal Data will manage the program and coordinate subcontractors, including Sequent Computer Systems, CompuAdd, Bell Atlantic, IBM and Oracle. The contract spans various hardware, software and support services, from mainframes to workstations and local-area networks.

Joint venture promises 'video on demand'

Digital Equipment Corp. will be teaming up with USA Video Corp. of Century City, Calif., to provide "video on demand."

USA Video has come up with video storage, compression and transmission technology that will let customers order from a video library of programs, including movies and instructional programs, and interactive services such as home shopping, video games and financial services.

A test installation using fiber-optic and coaxial cable is expected by late in 1993. The companies hope to move ahead to large-scale deployment throughout the country by mid-1994.

IBM testing copies of system OS/2 2.1

IBM, which has been pressured by the impending Microsoft introduction of Windows NT, said last week that it is testing 5,000 copies of OS/2 2.1.

The new version of the operating system addresses one of the major complaints about Version 2.0 -- its inability to handle applications that are written specifically for Windows 3.1.

It also supports many additional devices -- displays, printers, CD-ROM drives and PCMIA add-on circuit cards for notebook computers.

IBM said Version 2.1 includes the ability to fax and to handle pen- and speech-based systems.

There was no word on when the new version is expected to be released.

New battery will aid notebook computers

There's one sound that's guaranteed to make the blood of a traveling technophile run cold -- the "bleep, bleep, bleep" of a notebook computer with a soon-to-die battery.

Bellcore, the research arm of the regional Bell telephone companies, recently announced a prototype rechargeable battery that promises triple the life of normal nickel-cadmium batteries.

The AA-sized lithium battery is known as a "rocking chair" battery because of the way lithium ions flow back and forth as it charges and discharges.

Other lithium batteries have offerred long life, but they have been unavailable for most uses because of safety and environmental problems. Bellcore researchers have eliminated those problems by using a combination of lithium and graphite.

VaporWare software could be seen locally

You've read the articles, seen the ads. Now, for the first time, you can get your hands on (er, sort of) VaporWare.

The whimsical creation of Inert Software, a company formed by three Baltimore-area men, VaporWare "addresses the undelivered promises of every computer product developer."

The blue-and-black carton hails VaporWare as "completely media independent." Inside: a mass of bubble wrap and the instruction manual.

Rich Hall, a Finksburg programmer who did the writing for the extra-lite software package, said the group is selling it locally and trying to place it in the gift shops of several hotel chains.

At $10 or so, it's a relative bargain; as the package notes, it's "functionally similar . . . to many government programs."

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