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AT&T Unveils Office Computer System It Calls Unique

March 27, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ AT&T on Tuesday announced an office computer system the company says offers unique features to allow employees to work together on group projects more effectively.

American Telephone & Telegraph Co.’s new Rhapsody system links personal computers in a network, an increasingly popular computer configuration for offices because it allows workers to share information.

But AT&T said its system goes beyond existing networked systems because it can be programmed to gather information from computer files, ask other computers for data, send tasks to employees, schedule meetings, distribute reports for review and continuously track the status of projects.

Among other enhancements is the ability to automatically perform routine functions, such as creating expense vouchers or processing insurance claims.

Esther Dyson, who edits the computer industry newsletter Release 1.0, said the Rhapsody system is significant because it pulls together all the elements of a networked system: the computers themselves, the server, the networking gear, the software to run it, and applications software, such as word- processing programs.

Such a package is not available from computer giants such as International Business Machines Corp. or Digital Equipment Corp., although they provide most of the pieces, she said.

Ms. Dyson said AT&T’s expertise in communications gives it unique credibility in linking computers locally or worldwide.

The AT&T system, like many others, has an on-screen graphics display that uses pictures such as file cabinets, notepads and fax machines to execute commands, rather than typed-in written commands.

Although AT&T is selling both the computers and the software to operate the system, it also will sell the software alone to companies that already have desktop computers.

The system is based on the ″client-server″ model of computing, in which a server - essentially a high-powered computer - acts as the central data repository for personal computers linked on the network, which are called the clients.

The Rhapsody system is based on a number of software systems developed by other companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co.’s NewWave software and the Windows graphical-user-interface software made by Microsoft Corp.

The system also will run such popular applications software as Lotus Development Corp.’s 1-2-3 spreadsheet program and Microsoft’s Word for Windows word-processing program.

The first Rhapsody system will be based on desktop computers made by International Business Machines Corp. or compatible models sold by AT&T and others that use the MS-DOS operating system. Later versions will be compatible with computers based on AT&T’s Unix operating system.

The computer server sold with the system is made by both AT&T and Intel Corp.

AT&T said Rhapsody is targeted at medium to large companies. A complete system for a 20-person office, including the desktop computers, will cost about $170,000. The software alone, for companies that already have desktop computers and a server, will cost about $2,000, AT&T said.

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