The Public Interest

The future computer utility

Paul Baran

Summer 1967

The most important policy issue regarding the use of computers in the next decade will involve the creation of a “national computer public utility system.” It may seem strange to think of the computer in terms of a public utility, since ostensibly a computer is a machine that a customer buys or rents for his own use. But the recent emergence (only in the last year or two) of the possibility of “time-sharing”– whereby thousands of individual terminals, located in homes or offices, can be hooked into giant central computers through the use of telephone lines and used for information-gathering, ordering and billing services, etc.– makes the question of such a utility system anything but academic.

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