Now there's a thermometer for the computer with a fever.
OEM Marketing, a Canoga Park company led by executives formerly with such firms as Tandon and Micropolis, is about to begin selling the "Heat Alarm," a small device that is supposed to sound a shrill beep whenever the temperature inside a personal computer reaches 123 degrees.
The alarm, company executives say, lets users know when to shut off their computers, preventing the possible loss of data and damage to floppy disks, chips and other components.
Some computer officials, however, question whether the devices are needed.
"Overall, machines and boards are engineered not to get very hot. In most cases, you can leave a computer on for years without overheating it," said Len Fernandes, a spokesman for ComputerLand, the Oakland-based chain of computer stores.
Nevertheless, OEM executives see a market for their product, which will carry a suggested retail price of $49.95 and is designed to be installed in IBM personal computers. Similar ones will be sold later for IBM-compatible models, OEM executives say. Retailers said they know of no other similar devices currently available for computers.
To keep personal computers cool, manufacturers typically attach a fan to the machine's power supply unit, usually the hottest part.
But OEM President Robert D. Chisum, a former executive with such San Fernando Valley computer equipment companies as Micropolis and Pertec Peripherals, maintains that a computer's internal temperature can rise when users add options such as the so-called hard cards that boost a machine's memory. He says that repeated exposure to excessive heat may damage parts over time.
In an IBM computer, OEM's device fits inside the base of the machine on the left front side near the slots where users add options such as the hard cards. The device, a black, molded plastic box containing a circuit board with a heat sensor, connects to the PC's tiny speaker.
Goal Is 10,000
Chisum expects OEM will sell 10,000 alarms a month by December. Its first shipments of the alarm, which are assembled for OEM by a small Canoga Park firm named BWA, are scheduled to begin Oct. 27.
The alarm was invented by OEM Chairman Donald F. Taylor, a former vice president and marketing executive with Tandon, and Willie Paduano, the company's marketing director.
Paduano said he got the idea last July during a particularly hot day in the Valley when he spotted a trade publication advertisement showing a picture of a smoldering computer component.
OEM, an 11-employee firm that also imports computer equipment and helps small technology businesses secure financing, plans to introduce another heat-protection product in December. That one is supposed to trigger the fan inside a personal computer.
Taylor acknowledges that users may never need the alarms. He likens the equipment to the surge protectors many computer owners buy to protect computers from electrical surges that can occur during storms.
"It's for peace of mind," he said.