VIPS acquires rights to insurance softwareVIPS Inc.,...


VIPS acquires rights to insurance software

VIPS Inc., a Towson-based software developer and systems integrator, has acquired the rights to the Metropolitan Medicare System, an insurance package it developed with Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

The software, which VIPS plans to rename in the near future, is used by 11 major insurance companies around the country to process Medicare claims on large systems from IBM Corp. VIPS says the companies handle a third of all the Part B Medicare claims in the country.

VIPS, originally Viable Information Processing Systems, has about 260 employees at its Fairmount Avenue offices in Towson, says Robert Higgins, vice president for health care development.

As an "IBM Business Partner," it provides a variety of services, specializing in document imaging systems that let customers rapidly scan, store, retrieve and print vast numbers of documents.

VIPS plans to move into 60,000 square feet of space in Towson Commons in November.

Digital unveils cheaper version of Alpha chip

For the past decade, nearly all personal computers were based on Intel Corp.'s "80X86" chips or on Motorola Inc.'s 68000 series. But some cracks have appeared in the dam, and they're growing wider.

Digital Equipment Corp. pounded in a wedge last week by introducing a low-end version of its Alpha microprocessor, planned to sell for half the cost of Intel's Pentium. The result could be blazingly fast workstations running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT operating system and selling for under $3,500.

The 21066 microprocessor runs at 166 megahertz and will sell in quantity to manufacturers for $385 per chip. It includes a memory controller, graphics accelerator and support for the PCI local bus standard, a way of interconnecting components in a computer.

At the same time, DEC announced a $221 variant of the Alpha chip that's intended for "embedded" applications, such as industrial controllers.

DEC released the "Alpha PC" in May, but its list price of nearly $7,000 puts it into the workstation category, and sales have not been strong.

The new Alpha-based PCs will be hitting the market early next year, about the same time as machines based on the PowerPC, a processor developed jointly by IBM, Apple Computer Inc. and Motorola. That chip's high performance also promises to give the Pentium a run for its money.

More men than women part of on-line world

Amid all the talk about the growth of digital highways, little attention has been paid to the fact that today's on-line world is primarily a boys' club.

Working Woman magazine reports in September's issue that only 10 percent of subscribers to the CompuServe service are female. On Prodigy, the number of women is larger but still a distinct minority: 35 percent.

The magazine explains the gap as stemming from different views of computers; "men see computers as exciting toys, while women regard them primarily as sophisticated office machines," the article reports.

The stereotype of nerds and hackers hunched over their terminals at the other end of the line also helps to keep women away, the magazine says.

But it goes on to provide examples of women who find on-line services essential, both professionally and personally.

Cost of making CD-ROM disks drops

The cost of making your own CD-ROM disks has plummeted in the past year, and last week's announcement by Microboards Inc. of a sub-$4,000 package sets a new low.

Microboards, a Minnesota-based subsidiary of a Tokyo company, has packaged a drive made by Ricoh Co. Ltd. of Japan with software from Dataware Technologies that can record disks for MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh and Unix systems.

Low-cost recording CD drives use lasers to etch pits into the surface of specially treated disks. The catch is that the blanks are expensive -- often $40 or so. But when a company can dump 600 megabytes of internal documentation onto a disk for each service technician, say, the cost looks like a bargain.

And for companies planning to publish quite a few copies of a disk, the recording drives offer a great way to prepare and test a disk, which can then be duplicated in quantity by the standard "pressing" method for just a few dollars a disk.

Book claims Earth controlled by computer

Oh, those pesky computers.

It's bad enough when they eat our address files. But now, according to a press release that landed here recently, a guy's written a book claiming that "the Earth and everyone on it is controlled by a computer placed in the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago by an advanced civilization."

We're told that Gary G. Reibsamen's "S.T.A.R." explains how "the entire population of Earth is being continuously monitored on an individual basis, with the resulting data used as the basis for a child's game," and that "the world will come to an end in 2010 unless action is taken now."

Sort of puts Nintendo in perspective, doesn't it?

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