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Thursday, September 10, 1998 Published at 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK


Introducing the all-in-one cybercafé

Spamming would take on a whole new concept...

A microwave that lets you surf the Net while you heat up your chicken biryani has been unveiled.

Instead of a glass door, the microwave of the future will incorporate a colour screen that gives you access to the World Wide Web.

It will allow you to browse the Net, use online personal banking and shopping and e-mail newsgroups to swap recipes.

But the American developers NCR - a company that manufactures cashpoint machines when it isn't creating the kitchen of the future - says its prototype has a few problems to conquer before it arrives in the shops.

Wave interference

Microwaves are harmful to the sensitive electronics required for Internet access and NCR have yet to come up with an adequate system for shielding them.

They have also to overcome the problem of squeezing all the required bulky technology into a space-friendly unit.

But Director of NCR's Knowledge Laboratory in London, Stephen Emmott, believes they have a genuine headstart in a niche market of the future.

"We still have eight to 12 months research to do before we consider beginning the process of manufacture.

"Consumer research suggests the microwave bank would be popular," he said.

NCR believes that a combination microwave and personal computer, rather than intimidating technophobes, could actually help them overcome their inhibitions.

Only 20% of UK households have a personal computer. Microwaves are considered less intimidating for the uninitiated and therefore microwaves could be a way of introducing people to personal computers "by the back door".

But even if the developers overcome the technological limitations of the microwave computer, its expected retail price of £700 seems unlikely to encourage many people to invest.

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