Beery farewell to bartender

Sue Green

AN old Australian song immortalised the pub with no beer but now a computerised draught beer dispenser is the first step towards the pub with no bartender.

The Computap dispenser, which its distributor says uses technology developed by NASA in the space race, pours the perfect glass of beer to any size programmed into it - a development Mr John Wallace, managing director of distributors Computap Australia, said cuts waste through over pouring and reduces pilfering by recording when 'freebies' are given.

''Basically, before we came on the scene, there was no way of telling what was going on. You can count bottles and cans, but you can't count what comes out of a keg,'' he said.

The system, an American design modified for the Australian market, has been installed in popular Sydney watering holes including the Sydney Football Stadium, where Mr Wallace said its efficiency doubled the output of the systems at the bars during the recent rugby league grand final.

Computap, based on an Inter 8031 microprocessor, has a random access memory (RAM) of 256 bytes and an erasable program chip of 16 kilobytes. It comes with 330 pages of programming instructions and Mr Wallace said making apparently simple changes such as from ounces to millilitres was ''an absolute nightmare''.

It's been dubbed ''the robot bartender'' here but that's not strictly true - staff are needed to operate it, with a choice of buttons for glass size and a repeat function for continuous pouring during busy times. But it does free them to do other things while the drinks pour, as well as accounting for every drop and computing the value of sales.

Mr Wallace said the introduction of the system to Australia kept his company busy but it had made initial inquiries about the Asian market. Draught beer sales in Asia are limited, with most beer sold in bottles or cans, but Hongkong is a potential markethe will be investigating in future.

But Mr Wallace said those who liked a pretty face or a kindly ear behind the bar needn't worry. Machines were unlikely to take over completely.

''You can't imagine yourself on the side of the bar talking to this electronic monster and telling it your wife doesn't understand you,'' Mr Wallace said.