This Computer Tracks Flicks And Flak

ASK JUST ABOUT ANYONE what the Information Superhighway will be good for, and they'll answer video-on-demand--delivering digitized movies to homes over cable or phone wire at an instant's notice. No full-blown versions of such a system are running yet, but Concurrent Computer Corp., a minicomputer maker in Oceanport, N.J., is already going after a sort of Info-Highway-in-the-Sky.

Concurrent has just come out with a small, rugged version of its Maxion computer that's powerful--and light--enough to deliver dozens of movies at the same time to all the passengers on a large airliner. Each passenger could start and stop his movie independently of the others. Concurrent says it's in talks with several companies that supply in-flight entertainment systems.

Meanwhile, Concurrent says it has received strong interest for the Maxion from Loral Corp., a major supplier of electronic warfare systems. Weighing just 35 pounds, the computer can process up to 600 million program instructions per second--about 100 times more than is possible with the relatively old computers now used in U.S. jet fighters. They're only about as powerful as an Intel 286-based PC. With systems being developed under a military program called Expanded Situation Awareness Insertion, in which Loral is a major player, jets could use that computing muscle to sift through radar and intelligence data and give pilots faster, more accurate updates about fast-changing battle conditions.

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