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Coin-op computer centers to sprout?

Need to sit down with a computer for just five or 10 minutes? You may soon be able to do so, according to Datamation magazine, by dropping a quarter in a slot at a new kind of arcade. The idea of a coin-operated computer comes from a California businessman who was one of the originators of coin-operated car washes.

The concept is not entirely new. A coin-operated computer was first installed in a Monterey, Calif., public library in September 1971. But C. Bruce Smith of Manhattan Beach, in founding Coin-Op Computer Centers of America, added a few wrinkles.

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His vision is for computer centers that will be much more than just banks of coin-activated computers. Mr. Smith sees an opportunity for personal computer owners to install their equipment in his centers and share in the revenue, while having free use for themselves.

Also, the centers would offer low-rent office space for independent software specialists who, in addition to doing their own consulting work, would help out computer users at the centers for a fee. The centers would also provide a sales opportunity for manufacturers, which could install their equipment inexpensively and then have a few salesmen on hand. The centers could also offer computer training for an additional fee.

Time would be rented in any segment of an hour for multiples of a quarter or on an hourly basis for a set fee. Ultimately, coin-op computer centers are envisioned in every community. But they would be independently operated, not franchised. Each should have a different look, setup, and pricing scale, depending on where it was located and the type of traffic it generated.

Users are seen ranging from small businessmen, traveling salesmen and students to personal computer owners who want more power than their present equipment allows.

The idea for these computer arcades is still just that. But plans for the first one (in Manhattan Beach) are well under way, Datamation reports.

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