NEEDHAM, Mass. — In these wired '90s, the Katsiroubas family is keeping up with the techno-flow.
A 30-inch Mitsubishi television anchors a multimedia living room. Naturally, there's a VCR. A Sega Genesis game recently replaced a Nintendo. Kids and mom quickly admit the outdated Apple IIGS personal computer needs upgrading.
At school, 12-year-old Torry and 13-year-old Ted use the Prodigy on-line service, CD-ROM, Apple Macintosh computers and laserdiscs. Their mother, Debbie, belongs to the town's cable advisory board.
So it's no surprise the family of four is the first on the block to go interactive--paying $9.95 a month for a menu of educational materials, games, news, shopping, money management and other services.
Their verdict on two-way television: We like it, we'd buy more of it but it has to improve.
The service at hand is GTE Corp.'s Main Street, consisting of text, pictures, graphics and audio. About 600 households in six mostly wealthy Boston suburbs subscribe, fewer than half of what GTE's local computer system could accommodate.
GTE also test-marketed Main Street to about 350 households in Cerritos as part of the local telephone company's biggest interactive TV trial. Another 2,000 cable customers near San Diego receive it.
Reviews are mixed. In an age of full-motion video on CDs and personal computers, much of Main Street seems dull and utilitarian.
"It's really no more than a sophisticated information slide show," said Carl Lehmann of BIS Strategic Decisions, a technology consulting firm in Norwell, Mass. "It doesn't have the broad wow appeal that some of the other interactive television services are now offering."
Despite complaints of their own, Debbie Katsiroubas, 40, whose husband runs a wholesale produce business, and her family log onto Main Street about once a week. She likes having educational resources for her children.