Crabapple Anti-Computer Club looks for corps of converts

Steven M. Stroum is sour on home computers. So much so, he's established the ''Crabapple Anti-Computer Club'' in an attempt to cultivate a whole orchard of dissenters.

''I don't think there is a real need for computers in the home,'' states the soft-spoken father. Of computermakers, he says: ''In their attempts to create that need, that market, they've gone overboard in their advertising messages.''

Sure, he agrees, there are instances where computers can be useful at home - assisting disabled children or tapping into finanical investment services - ''but for the masses, no one has identified a legitimate need for home computers.''

In fact, manufacturers are voicing just that concern. Philip C. Restaino, senior vice-president at Atari quoted in a June 4, New York Times article, said, ''Everyone was persuaded that all we had to do was provide the computer and that consumers knew what they would do with them. Clearly, this wasn't the case. There is only so far you can go with intimidation, with telling the public that if you don't buy your kid a computer he'll grow up to be an idiot.''

This may in part account for projections of slower home-computer sales this year. Earlier this month, Infocorp, a Cupertino, Calif., market-research firm, cut in half its October prediction that 4.6 million home computers would be sold in 1984.

It was the intimidation tactics that triggered Stroum's efforts. One evening last fall, Stroum says he was stretched out on the couch, watching TV. His five-year-old son was playing nearby. A commercial appeared showing Dad and a toddler playing with a Texas Instruments computer.

''I was disgusted by it,'' he says. ''The tone and implication was that you were going to be a poor parent - sentencing your child to a menial life if you don't get on this bandwagon. That is irresposible adverstising.''

While upset by the sales tatics, Mr. Stroum is not totally against children using computers. There may be a use for computers in school after the third grade, he says, but not until then. ''I have my degree in behavioral science. And I feel the most important part of a child's development in that age category (pre-fourth grade) is socialization and you learn to socialize by interfacing with other human beings.''

Stroum is the president of a sales development firm located near the ''Silicon Belt'' buckled around Boston. Some of his clients are high-tech companies. ''I've been involved with computers for a decade. I have utmost respect for them. I have one in my outer office.''

But he says ''it is a myth that without a computer, my kid is going to be left behind. By the time my son is in high school the interactive process with computers is going to be so much simpler - user friendly - he not going to need any specialized software knowledge.''

Members of Stroum's club pay $19 to receive a newsletter, ''Living and Computing,'' every other month. ''The intent is to develop awareness about the social impact of increasing computerization,'' he says.

The first two issues include the pros and cons, by psychologists, of whether children need computers; an ''Afterbyte'' column for those already ''stung by the computer bug;'' and an account of an ''US'' magazine story on the Crabapple Club.

Stroum says it was killed by the parent company, Warner Communications because, and Stroum quotes the writer: ''Atari's (another Warner subsidiary) business isn't going so well and they don't want any adverse publicity about home computers.''

Nonetheless, Stroum has been dissappointed by the general public's lack of distaste for home computing. The club has 32 members but most are educators and high-tech professionals.

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