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Britain's Prince Charles took whirlwind tours of high-tech, medical...

By ELIZABETH RICCI

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Britain's Prince Charles took whirlwind tours of high-tech, medical and political landmarks Wednesday before attending Harvard University's 350th anniversary dinner in his honor.

The prince, playing a starring role in Harvard's $1 million celebration, travelled 30 miles north to Lowell in a heavily guarded Rolls Royce for a demonstration of Wang Laboratories' latest computer technology.

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Dr. An Wang, founder of the worldwide computer giant, provided a tour of the company's headquarters complete with a demonstration of a computer system that passes on typed messages with a simulated human voice.

'How do you get it to talk with an American accent?' joked the prince as employees demonstrated the system.

Employees also demonstrated an image-copying machine by editing a picture of the prince in a 1984 steeple chase. The finished product showed the prince coming in first although he actually came in second. 'I always wondered how the newspapers did that,' quipped the prince.

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The focus shifted from high to low technology when Gov. Michael Dukakis led the prince on a tour of the 'Market Mills' complex in downtown Lowell, a renovated textile factory, where former mill workers demonstrated the operation of a loom.

Hundreds of Wang employees and Lowell residents lined up behind ropes at the office building to catch a glimpse of the prince, who delighted the crowds by approaching them to shake hands and chat.

'He shook my hand and asked 'Where do you work -- at the top or the bottom? (of the high-rise building,'' said Wang secretary Donna Toohey, 25. 'I was so flabbergasted, I couldn't remember.'

Charles, who is president of a British group designed to boost employment, then attended a Boston conference of 70 business executives from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

'I feel strongly about the question of encouraging better cooperation between the public and private sector in Britain,' he said.

The prince also was guest of honor at a luncheon in the Massachusetts Statehouse. In a setting that included murals of Paul Revere's ride and the Boston Tea Party protest against Britain's King George III, Charles sampled seafood pasta salad, fruit sorbets and red and white wines from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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After visits to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the British firm Burberry's and an evening reception at Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel hosted by the British consul general, the prince was to cross the Charles River to Cambridge for the anniversary dinner at Harvard.

Three-year-old Eric Jones of Warwick, R.I., a patient at Dana Farber, gave the prince drawings by child cancer victims. 'William and Henry (the prince's sons) will be very pleased with them when I get home,' said Charles.

Gail Reardon of Boston, who said she followed the prince all afternoon, called for his attention as he returned to the Ritz-Carlton after afternoon tea at Burberrys.

'I've been waiting for this moment all my life,' said Reardon, 25, who described herself as one of Charles' most adoring fans. 'I told him I have his and his brother's weddings on videotape, a documentary film about his family and lots of books about him and his wife.'

The prince offered Reardon some friendly advice: 'Don't overdo it.'

Several New England governors and members of Congress -- including Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, D-Mass.; Claiborne Pell, D-R.I.; and Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I. -- attended the British consul's reception, where the prince announced the formation of the New England British Business Association to promote trade between New England and the United Kingdom.

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Harvard's four-day birthday celebration, six years in the planning, includes a keynote speech by the prince, a fireworks show at the 25,000-seat Harvard Stadium and more than 100 symposiums.

A graduate of England's Cambridge University, where many of Harvard's founders were educated, Charles will deliver the address Thursday at Harvard Yard.

Founded in 1636, Harvard is the nation's oldest educational institution.

Other dignitaries invited to honor the nation's oldest university include Secretary of State George Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani.

Following his speech Thursday, the prince is scheduled to board a British Airways jet to Chicago, where he is to attend a charity polo ball and open a promotion of British goods at a Marshall Field's store.

Charles's wife, Diana, did not accompany him on his trip.

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