Computer Rule Shift

The New York Times

Washington -- December 31, 1984 -- The Commerce Department plans to ease controls on the shipment of personal computers to the Soviet Union and other Communist countries while tightening restrictions on more sophisticated computer equipment, officials said today.

The new rules would allow such companies as Apple Computer Inc. and the International Business Machines Corporation to sell personal computers to the Soviet Union and other Communist countries.

Lionel H. Olmer, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, said that the new rules would probably be published this week.

''It is simply a paperwork process now,'' he added. ''All of the relevant agencies have signed off on them.''

Mr. Olmer said the changes would involve ''millions and millions of dollars of volume per month'' for American companies, as well as computer companies in Japan and Western Europe.

He said the change to allow the sale of less-sophisticated personal computers reflected agreements by the 15-nation Coordinating Committee on strategic exports, known as Cocom.

Cocom, whose membership includes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and Japan, makes sure that members have a single policy on which technologies should be withheld from the Soviet bloc and China.

The liberalized rules governing such personal computers as the Commodore 64, the Apple IIe and the Radio Shack Model 100 represent a recognition that such machines no longer pose a military threat if they were to fall into Soviet hands, officials said.

The tougher requirements for more sophisticated equipment will focus on preventing the diversion of such high- level computers as Apple's Macintosh and the I.B.M. PC-AT. For the first time, Cocom will also review sophisticated computer programs before granting approval for these programs to be exported by member countries.

Copyright 1985 The New York Times Company