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With the advent of the family car and the supermarket, the grocery delivery boy went the way of the milkman. His near-extinction left a lot of old and infirm people stranded.

Now companies are starting to see an opportunity in the housebound - and the busy. Shoppers Express Inc. of Bethesda, Md., provides toll-free ordering and grocery delivery services to supermarket chains. Home delivery costs up to $12.50 an order. Safeway is using the service around Washington, D.C., and Shoppers Express claims to have clients in "just about every market in the country." Kroger is testing a home delivery system called Prodigy in Atlanta.These aren't the only convenience-enhancers likely to expand in the 1990s. Drive-in shopping and ordering by computer are in the works. There are benefits here not just for people who can't get out but for countless parents stretched thin between jobs and families.