Part 1

Read carefully the magazine article about a family who run their own computer busines and choose the correct answer A, B, C or D.


Computer software has made Joyce and Larry Lacerte and their family rich enough to build their dream house – an enormous computer-controlled mansion complete with swimming pool, baseball pitch, miniature estate cars for racing round the grounds, and tennis court, in a leafy Dallas suburb. There are so many rooms in the house itself that to send messages to family members they need intercoms, absolutely essential in a house where it could take half an hour to find somebody.

It is morning in the kitchen. Sitting in line at the huge breakfast bar in order of age from two to eleven are their seven children. The daily printout from the master computer in the attic with its five megabytes of memory has already told them what the day holds for them by producing a list of activities for each member of the family. The computer has also recorded the outside temperature, the air pressure, the wind direction and speed. Inside the house it controls the lights, the room temperatures, each child’s computer, the back-up generator, the TV sets and the massive security system which protects the property. In addition to the main computer, each child has his or her own computer station, complete with laser printer, just like Larry’s.

Larry is the founder of a company which has built up its business providing computer software for small firms. Larry talks as he takes us on a four-hour tour of the mansion. ‘I’ve always been fascinated by computers. In fact, I was brought up with them – worked with them since the age of fourteen! I’ve been lucky, though, because I’ve always had good people to work for me. But I think my real strength is that I’ve done every single job in the company myself, so I know just what’s involved in each one. We’ve got three hundred and fifteen employees at the moment and we’re still taking people on. That’s not to say that we haven’t had some scary moments, of course. Like when we had to borrow money to pay the bills. I really hated being in debt but it’s actually worked out well for us. We’ve also bought four or five other small companies along the way. I suppose we came to Dallas mainly for the children’s sake, because the schools here are wonderful… and I’ve also worked out that I get a couple of hours a day more with the children – you see, the office is so close to home!’

The children are very important to Larry and Joyce. Particularly when Larry thought that he might not live to see them grow up. Three years ago the doctors thought that he had a brain tumour and the future looked grim. ‘It’s changed the way I think about my family, the way I look at life, even though everything seems to be all right now,’ says Larry. ‘I don’t want to give up my job but I don’t work as hard as I did before!