1969: Need a Computer Reminder of Important Dates?

By Robert Stanger

Middletown, Conn. (UPI)— Computers may never duplicate the intricate responses of their creator, the human brain, but they still are a better “memory bank” than man’s cerebrum.

So now they’re being used commercially as “memory joggers” in the “SOS Division” of Canberra Industries, a Middletown firm based in nuclear electronics, data systems, analytical instrumentation and research. For a relatively modest fee “SOS” will feed into a computer vital statistics a subscriber might forget or information he might need should important documents stray or be stolen.

“SOS” will record “anything with a number,” according to David H. Smith, 29, head of Canberra’s sales force and originator of the service.

“Depending on what is lost, we will assist a subscriber in obtaining a new document,” said Smith, explaining that his firm has necessary forms for this, governmental or otherwise.

One facet of the service is immediate notification of creditors should a subscriber’s credit cards be lost or stolen.

Another reminds subscribers of important dates a busy person might forget. A wife’s birthday, perhaps, or a favorite niece’s graduation. The subscriber will be nudged through a card sent to his office, and he is saved from possible embarrassment.

Smith said subscribers also can be reminded of expiration dates on magazines and insurance policies.

Or perhaps a subscriber loses his car keys while covering a sales territory hundreds of miles from home. A call to SOS and he can find out the factory code number to his keys, and forthwith a car dealer can make him a new set.

Before handing out information, SOS checks on a caller’s identity by asking his height, weight and birth date which is compared with information on file. “We have to be sure we are giving information to legitimate people,” Smith said.

Smith’s inspiration for SOS resulted from some personal irritations. About a year ago he lost a gasoline card and wanted to notify the company. A company service station told him to call a New York City number. This resulted in the familiar “I’ll have to transfer your call” runaround until he was told he’d have to write… not phone… to an office in Kansas City.

It took the shock of a temporarily misplaced wallet before he fully realized the aggravating situations caused by the loss of important cards and documents.

SOS charges under $10 for a “package” registration covering credit cards, car keys, important dates and documents. For an appropriate additional charge, it will send the Mrs. a box of chocolates or a bottle of perfume.

From the Raleigh Register (Beckley, West Virginia), April 17, 1969.

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