Washington spends about $10 billion a year paying the world's best programmers to create the world's best software. Since we taxpayers own it in the end, why not try some for free, suggests Gregory Aharonian, compiler of an annual rundown of 10,000 programs available from the feds. Some 90% of them run on a PC, and reuse (including resale) is usually unrestricted. While a small business would have little use for NASA's Control of Spinning Spacecraft, it might find applications for Product Production Cost Determination and other operational, financial, and expert-systems programs devised for the IRS, the Commerce Department, the Census Bureau, and such.

For all the money poured into software development, the government spends precious little keeping track of it. "If it did its job right, I'd have no job," Aharonian notes. He charges $156.50 for the fruits of his labor, available in print or on a computer disk. Call Source Translation and Optimization at 617-489-3727. -- Robert A. Mamis

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