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Barry, Dave. Lost in cyberspace.(excerpt from 'Dave Barry in
     Cyberspace'). In Newsweek Oct 14 1996, v128, n16, p85(3). 


THE INTERNET IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SINGLE development in the history  
of human communications since the invention of call waiting."         
                                                                      
A bold statement? Indeed it is, but consider how the Internet can     
simplify and enhance our lives. Imagine that you need to do the       
following chores: (1) make an airline reservation; (2) buy some       
tickets to a concert; (3) research a question on your income taxes;   
and (4) help your child gather information for a school report. To    
accomplish all this fifteen years ago, you could easily have spent an 
entire day talking on the phone and driving to the library, IRS       
office, etc. Whereas today, you simply turn on your computer, dial up 
your local Internet access number and in less than an instant--       
thanks to the Internet's global reach and astounding                  
versatility-you're listening to a busy signal ] Yes, it can be        
difficult to get through to the Internet, because it's so popular.    
These days it seems as though everybody has one of those cryptic      
little Internet addresses:                                            
                                                                      
Hunchback@NotreDame.com                                               
                                                                      
jhoffa@landfill.r.i.p                                                 
                                                                      
millionsofbacteria@yourarmpit.p-u                                     
                                                                      
Why is the Internet so popular?                                       
                                                                      
For one thing, it enables you to communicate quickly and easily with  
people all over the world--even people you don't want to communicate  
with. I know this for a fact, because one time several years ago,     
when I was new to the Internet, I attempted to send an electronic     
message to a writer I know in England named Michael Bywater, whom I   
met when I was on a book tour in London. Michael and I had really hit 
it off, in part because we share a common outlook on important        
economic, social, and political issues, and in part because we        
consumed an enormous quantity of beer.                                
                                                                      
So when I got back to the United States, I wrote Michael this chatty  
little message, which was basically an inside joke that would make    
sense only to him. It addressed Michael as "Mr Chuckletrousers"--a    
name I'd seen in a London newspaper headline-and it contained various 
sophisticated and extremely subtle humor elements that could look, to 
the uninformed observer, like bad words.                              
                                                                      
The problem was that, because of my limited grasp of how the Internet 
works, instead of sending this message just to Michael, I somehow     
managed to send (or, in cyberlingo, "post") it to THE WHOLE ENTIRE    
INTERNET. It immediately became semi-famous. People called it the     
Chuckletrousers Post, and it spread like wildfire around the          
Internet, as people made copies and sent them to their friends, who   
made copies for their friends. As far as I can tell, thousands,       
perhaps millions of people ended up seeing it. If there are in fact   
intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe, I'm pretty sure that    
the first communication they will receive from our planet will be the 
Chuckletrousers Post.                                                 
                                                                      
The irony is, about a week after the original post, Michael Bywater   
posted a message on the Internet saying that he'd heard there was     
some message going around with his name in it, but he hadn't seen it, 
and could somebody please send it to him? I had managed to send this  
hideously embarrassing message to everybody in the world except the   
person who was supposed to read it.                                   
                                                                      
Common Questions and Answers                                          
                                                                      
About the Internet                                                    
                                                                      
What, exactly, is the Internet?                                       
                                                                      
The Internet is a worldwide network of university, government,        
business, and private computer systems. Who runs it?                  
                                                                      
A 13-year-old named Jason.                                            
                                                                      
How can I get on the Internet?                                        
                                                                      
The easiest way is to sign up with one of the popular commercial      
"on-line" services, such as Prodigy, CompuServe, or America Online,   
which will give you their program disks for free. Or, if you just     
leave your house unlocked, they'll sneak in some night and install    
their programs on your computer when you're sleeping. They really     
want your business.                                                   
                                                                      
What are the benefits of these services?                              
                                                                      
The major benefit is that they all have simple, "user-friendly"       
interfaces that enable you-- even if you have no previous computer    
experience--to provide the online services with the information they  
need to automatically put monthly charges on your credit card bill    
forever.                                                              
                                                                      
What if I die?                                                        
                                                                      
They don't care.                                                      
                                                                      
Can't I cancel my account?                                            
                                                                      
Of course] You can cancel your account at any time. How?              
                                                                      
Nobody has ever been able to find out. Some of us have been trying    
for years to cancel our accounts, but no matter what we do, the       
charges keep appearing on our bills. We're thinking of entering the   
Federal Witness Protection Program.                                   
                                                                      
What if my children also use my Internet account?                     
                                                                      
You should just sign your house and major internal organs over to the 
on-line service right now.                                            
                                                                      
Aside from running up charges, what else can I do once I'm connected  
to an on-line service?                                                
                                                                      
Millions of things] An incredible array of things] No end of things]  
Like what?                                                            
                                                                      
You can ... ummmm ... OK] I have one] You can chat.                   
                                                                      
"Chat"?                                                               
                                                                      
Chat.                                                                 
                                                                      
I can already chat. I chat with my friends. Yes, but on the Internet, 
which connects millions of people all over the entire globe, you can  
chat with total strangers, many of whom are boring and stupid] Sounds 
great] How does it work?                                              
                                                                      
Well, first you decide which type of area you wish to chat in. Some   
areas are just for general chatting, and some are for specific        
interest groups, such as Teens, Poets, Cat Lovers, Religious People,  
Gays, Gay Teens Who Read Religious Poetry to Cats, and of course Guys 
Having Pointless Arguments About Sports. At any given moment, an area 
can contain anywhere from two to dozens of people, who use clever     
fake names such as "ByteMe" so nobody will know their real            
identities.                                                           
                                                                      
What are their real identities?                                       
                                                                      
They represent an incredible range of people, people of all ages, in  
all kinds of fascinating fields--from scientists to singers, from     
writers to wranglers, from actors to athletes -you could be talking   
to almost anybody on the Internet ] Really?                           
                                                                      
No. You're almost always talking to losers and hormone-crazed         
13-year-old boys. But they pretend to be writers, wranglers,          
scientists, singers, etc.                                             
What do people talk about in chat areas?                              
                                                                      
Most chat-area discussions revolve around the fascinating topic of    
who is entering and leaving the chat area. A secondary, but equally   
fascinating, topic is where everybody lives. Also, every now and then 
the discussion is interrupted by a hormone-crazed 13-year-old boy     
wishing to talk dirty to women.                                       
                                                                      
To give you an idea of how scintillating the repartee can be, here's  
a re-creation of a typical chat-area dialogue (do not read this       
scintillating repartee while operating heavy machinery):              
                                                                      
LILBRISKET: Hi everybody                                              
                                                                      
WAZOOTYMAN: Hi LilBrisket                                             
                                                                      
TOADSTER: Hi Bris                                                     
                                                                      
LUNGFLOOK: Hi B                                                       
                                                                      
LILBRISKET: What's going on?                                          
                                                                      
TOADSTER: Not much                                                    
                                                                      
LUNGFLOOK: Pretty quiet                                               
                                                                      
(longish pause)                                                       
                                                                      
WAZOOTYMAN: Anybody here from Texas?                                  
                                                                      
LILBRISKET: No                                                        
                                                                      
TOADSTER: Nope                                                        
                                                                      
LUNGFLOOK: Sorry                                                      
                                                                      
(longish pause)                                                       
                                                                      
UVULABOB: Hi everybody                                                
                                                                      
TOADSTER: Hi UvulaBob                                                 
                                                                      
LUNGFLOOK: Hi Uvula                                                   
                                                                      
LILBRISKET: Hi UB                                                     
                                                                      
WAZOOTYMAN: Hi U                                                      
                                                                      
UVULABOB: What's happening?                                           
                                                                      
LILBRISKET: Kinda slow                                                
                                                                      
TOADSTER: Same old same old                                           
                                                                      
LUNGFLOOK: Pretty quiet                                               
                                                                      
JASON56243837: LilBrisket, take off your panties                      
                                                                      
LILBRISKET: OK, but I'm a man                                         
                                                                      
(longish pause)                                                       
                                                                      
WAZOOTYMAN: UvulaBob, are you from Texas?                             
                                                                      
UVULABOB: No.                                                         
                                                                      
(longish pause)                                                       
                                                                      
LUNGFLOOK: Well, gotta run.                                           
                                                                      
It is a beautiful thing, the Internet.                                
                                                                      
It is.                                                                
                                                                      
What is the "World Wide Web"?                                         
                                                                      
The World Wide Web is the multimedia version of the Internet, where   
you can get not only text but also pictures and sounds on a           
semi-infinite range of topics, stored on "Web pages," maintained by   
companies, institutions, and individuals. Using special software, you 
can navigate to these pages and read, look at, or listen to all kinds 
of cool stuff. It would not surprise me that, by the time you read    
this, somewhere on the Web you can look at an actual electron         
microscope image of JASON56243837'S CRAZED hormones.                  
                                                                      
Wow] How can I get on the Web?                                        
                                                                      
It's easy] Suppose you're interested in buying a boat from an         
Australian company that has a Web page featuring pictures and         
specifications of its various models. You just fire up your World     
Wide Web software and type in the company's Web page address-         
probably an intuitive, easy-to-remember string of characters like     
this:                                                                 
                                                                      
http//:www.fweemer-twirple^.com/ heppledork/sockitomesockitome@fee.   
fie/fo/fum.                                                           
What if I type one single character wrong?                            
                                                                      
You will launch U.S. nuclear missiles against Norway.                 
                                                                      
Ah.                                                                   
                                                                      
But assuming you type in the correct address, you merely press Enter, 
and there you are]                                                    
                                                                      
Where?                                                                
                                                                      
Sitting in front of your computer waiting for something to happen. It 
could take weeks. Entire new continents can emerge from the ocean in  
the time it takes for a Web page to show up on your screen. Contrary  
to what you may have heard, the Internet does not operate at the      
speed of light; it operates at the speed of the Department of Motor   
Vehicles. It might be quicker for you to just go over to Australia    
and look at the boats in person.                                      
                                                                      
Does that mean that the World Wide Web is useless?                    
                                                                      
Heck no] If you're willing to be patient, you'll find that you can    
utilize the vast resources of the Web to waste time in ways that you  
never before dreamed possible.                                        
                                                                      
At Last: Proof That Civilization Is Doomed                            
                                                                      
Common criticism of the Internet is that it is dominated by the       
crude, the uninformed, the immature, the smug, the untalented, the    
repetitious, the pathetic, the hostile, the deluded, the              
self-righteous, and the shrill. This criticism overlooks the fact     
that the Internet also offers-for the savvy individual who knows      
where to look-the tasteless and the borderline insane.                
                                                                      
I am thinking here mainly of the World Wide Web. Whereas much of the  
Internet relies strictly on text, the Web is multimedia; this means   
that if, for example, you're setting up a Web site devoted to         
exploring the near-universal human fear that a Star Wars character    
wants to consume your gonads, you can present this issue in both      
words and pictures.                                                   
                                                                      
In researching this I spent many, many hours exploring the World Wide 
Web. My time was divided as follows: Typing insanely complex Web      
addresses-2%. Waiting for what seemed like at least two academic      
semesters per Web page while the computer appeared to do absolutely   
nothing--93%. Reading snippy messages stating that there is no such   
Web address-- 2%. Retyping insanely complex Web addresses- 2%.        
Actually looking at Web pages-- 1%.                                   
All the pages described here are real; I did not make any of them up, 
not even the virtual toilet. And what you see here represents just a  
teensy-tiny fraction of the thousands upon thousands of Web pages,    
with new ones being created constantly. Do not assume, from what you  
see in this chapter, that all Web pages are a total waste of time;    
the actual figure is only about 99.999997 percent.                    
                                                                      
By the time you read this, however, you may not be able to visit all  
of these pages. I visited most of them in mid-1996; some of them may  
have since gone out of existence for various reasons, such as that    
their creators were recalled to their home planets.

The Toilets of Melbourne, Australia http://minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au/^s9507658/toilet/
If you're thinking about taking a trip to Melbourne, Australia, the   
first question you ask yourself is: "What will the toilets be like?"  
                                                                      
The answer can be found at this Web site, which offers detailed       
reviews of selected Melbourne-area toilets.                           
                                                                      
And that is not all: From this Web site, you can jump to some of the  
many, many other toilet-related Web sites, including a Virtual Public 
Restroom ("The Toilet of the Web"), where you can write a virtual     
message and leave a virtual "poopie."  

Wave to the Cats http://hogwild.hamjudo.com/cgibin/wave
This is the perfect Web site to show to the skeptic who thinks you    
can't do anything useful or practical on the Internet. At this site,  
you can click on a button that activates a motor at a remote          
location; the motor is attached to a large fiberboard hand, which     
waves back and forth at some cats, if the cats happen to be in the    
room at the time. You can't actually see this; you just get the warm  
feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing that you are causing  
a remote, simulated hand to wave at remote, possibly nonexistent      
cats. You also get a nice "Thank you for your wave" message from the  
Web page author, as well as his description of the way the cats       
usually react to the hand ("Master will stare at it when it moves;    
the other three cats, Callie, Mutant, and Katrina, just ignore it").

Cursing in Swedish. http://www.bart.nl/^sante/enginvek.html
This is the most thorough on-line course in Swedish cursing I am      
aware of; and if your computer has sound, you can click on phrases,   
and it will curse at you in Swedish.                                  
                                                                      
Here are some of the practical Swedish curses you can learn on this   
Web site (I swear I am not making these up):                          
                                                                      
[SWEDISH LANGUAGE OMITTED]                                            
                                                                      
Let me repeat that the Web sites described here represent just a tiny 
fraction of what's out there. What you really need to do is start     
poking around for yourself. You'll quickly discover that what you've  
just read exemplifies some of the saner thinking going on. So go      
ahead] Get on the Web] In my opinion, it's WAY more fun than          
television, and what harm can it do?                                  
                                                                      
OK, it can kill brain cells by the billions.                          
                                                                      
But you don't need brain cells. You have a computer.                  
                                                                      
Useful Internet Emoticons                                             
                                                                      
Emoticons are a very clever use of standard punctuation marks to      
express a human emotion. Suppose you're typing a statement such as: I 
am feeling happy. The problem with this is, the reader cannot be      
absolutely, 100 percent sure what emotion you're feeling when you     
type this. So at the end of the sentence, you type a colon followed   
by a closing parenthesis: I am feeling happy :)                       
                                                                      
Right. When you turn the page sideways the punctuation marks form a   
"smiley face." But that's only the beginning:                         
                                                                      
                                                                      
                                                                      
        :(     Sad person                                             
                                                                      
        :-)    Happy person with a nose                               
                                                                      
        :--(   Person who is sad because he                           
                                                                      
               or she has a large nose                                
                                                                      
        .-)    Person who can still smile                             
                                                                      
               despite losing an eyeball                              
                                                                      
        :-D    Person laughing                                        
                                                                      
        :-D*   Person laughing so hard that he or                     
                                                                      
               she does not notice that a 5-legged                    
                                                                      
               spider is hanging from his or her lip                  
                                                                      
        ;-)    Person winking                                         
                                                                      
        :{-8   Person who is unhappy with                             
                                                                      
               the results of her breast-enlargement surgery          
                                                                      
COPYRIGHT 1996 Newsweek Inc.