ScreenPhone firm wins debit patentThe Fairfax, Va...

TECHNOLOGY & COMMUNICATION

August 16, 1993|By Steve Auerweck | Steve Auerweck,Staff Writer

ScreenPhone firm wins debit patent

The Fairfax, Va., company that runs the ScreenPhone home banking system for MNC Financial Inc. has won a fundamental patent on the idea of home debit transactions, throwing the financial industry into a tizzy.

Online Resources & Communications Corp., which won the crucial patent, is a 4-year-old firm with about 30 employees. According to its president, Matthew P. Lawlor, "What the patent encompasses is any home terminal -- TV, terminal, screen-based phone -- that performs a debit as opposed to a credit-card transaction."

The advantage of debit transactions, Mr. Lawlor said, is that they're more secure. With the knowledge that money is in the bank, processing fees are just 50 cents or 75 cents, rather than 2 percent or 3 percent with credit cards, translating into consumer savings.

"We didn't hype it before it was issued [on June 15]," Mr. Lawlor said of the patent, "so it's caught a lot of folks by surprise."

Now he gives the impression that others in the industry are lining up at Online Resources' door. But, Mr. Lawlor said, the company doesn't plan to be greedy.

As a service agency, the company is hoping to team with others by providing processing services, Mr. Lawlor said.

It's also willing to license out its technology, he said, but he added, "We don't see licensing fees as being a big part of our bottom line."

PCs put through a nose-dive test

Most computer users have days when they don't know which way is up. But some NASA testers are taking that feeling to extremes.

Last Wednesday through Friday, they took to the skies to test PCs in a special KC-135 airplane that power-dives to create weightless conditions.

In particular, they were comparing the ability of zero-gravity users to use the built-in pointing device in the IBM Thinkpad vs. a Microsoft clip-on mouse.

The tests were inspired by a PC World magazine feature on laptop usability on airplanes. A Lockheed Engineering and Science Co. engineer contacted the magazine, which cooked up a special zero-G version of its testing software.

NASA will use the tests to evaluate and recommend various models of PCs for future use in space.

TAS will sell stock to New Jersey firm

Technology Applications and Service Co. of Gaithersburg has agreed to sell its outstanding stock to Diagnostic/Retrieval Systems Inc. of Oakland, N.J.

TAS, a privately held company, makes emulators that serve

as a lower-cost replacement for display consoles and computer peripherals used by the military.

It also provides military simulators and training products, and provides technical services to the Defense Department and commercial customers.

Diagnostic/Retrieval Systems, which is listed on the American Stock Exchange, primarily makes special-purpose computer and display systems.

Advanced Micro workers get bonus

There's gold in them there chips.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced last week that it would distribute $18.7 million worth of first-half profits to its employees.

That works out to about $3,500 for each of its 5,400 domestic employees, who are concentrated at the Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters and in Austin, Texas.

Scott Allen of AMD said employees are receiving a check for about two weeks' pay, plus an equal amount that's deposited in a deferred-compensation account that becomes vested over five years.

AMD is the country's fifth-largest manufacturer of integrated circuits. It has seen its greatest success in recent years with work-alike models of the Intel Corp. microprocessors used in personal computers.

Nightmare tales from the computer

The winner's been picked in the San Diego Computer Fair Computer Dementia Contest, and believe us, it proves that computer problems ain't pretty.

The contest, sponsored by San Diego's ComputorEdge Magazine, drew about 250 entries from writers who believed that theirs was the most nightmarish computer tale of all, according to associate publisher Kevin Leap.

At the top of the list was a story from Kat Maudru, news director at a Sacramento, Calif., radio station. She told how daughter Alexa, 1 year old, was frolicking in the buff around a loaner computer that had been placed on the floor when disaster struck.

"There she was . . . happy as a cricket, when nature, and an overabundance of fruit and juice, all took their course, as Alexa 'downloaded' . . . all over and into the computer," she wrote.

Sold: one computer.

As consolation, the family wins a trip to the fair on the weekend of Sept. 10.

The second-place entry, Mr. Leap said, was the stuff of true nightmare.

A digitized alarm clock programmed into a home computer went off in the middle of the night, waking the writer with the voice of his recently deceased father.

And you thought jammed printers were bad.

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