This Little Computer Tries to Be a Book

By Daniel Fisher 1994, Bloomberg Business News | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 4, 1995 | Go to article overview

This Little Computer Tries to Be a Book


Daniel Fisher 1994, Bloomberg Business News, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Electronics companies have struggled in vain for years to come up with a replacement for the humble printed book.

Most were too expensive, required a Ph.D. in computer science to operate, or otherwise failed to improve on what is, after all, an extraordinarily effective form of random access memory.

Franklin Electronic Publishers Inc. of Mount Holly, N.J., may be on the right track with its Digital Book System. The calculator-size device is inexpensive at about $130 and can hold the equivalent of 40 Bibles stored on a pair of computer chips.

About the size of a 9-volt battery, each read-only memory chip is an electronic "book" that fits into a slot on the back of the DBS-2. The chips vary in price from about $30 to $130. Similar chips can turn the DBS-2 into a portable game machine.

A sample chip included with the DBS-2 pumps orchestra music through its earphone jack and displays graphics of exploding fireworks on its one-by-four-inch screen. Because the four-line liquid crystal display can be cumbersome when wading through as much as 400 megabytes of computer data, built-in software makes it easy to look up information through a variety of indexing methods.

***** Vintage Information

Where do those features come in handy? Try the cluttered aisles of Spec's Liquor Store in downtown Houston, a wine lover's paradise.

To ferret out the best buys, I used to bring a cheat sheet of rankings from wine magazines. I'd scan the wine racks for a label that matched my own notes - and I'd usually go home with a mystery vintage when nothing matched.

Franklin's DBS-2 makes even this task a lot easier. At the low end of 40-odd titles available for the system, Parker's Wine Guide includes reviews of just about every wine and vintage available in the United States.

Type in the name of the wine - Chateau Chasse-Spleen, say - and after a slight delay, Robert Parker's ratings for vintages of this fine Bordeaux pop on the screen. Choose a vintage and you see that Parker finds the '89 to be "generous," "smoky," and "chewy," among other things.

Curious about why Parker used this last adjective to describe a liquid? A built-in glossary says "chewy" refers to wines with "a rather dense, viscous texture from a high glycerine content."

Other features include vintage charts and maps of the world's major wine regions. Using a variety of cross-reference techniques, you can search for wines by region, name, vintage and rating. …

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