Internet _ the worldwide network of computer networks _ has become the rage of personal computing.
The 'Net, as pundits call it, is everywhere _ online, in magazines, on TV and radio and in political campaigns. It has become part of popular culture without most people knowing exactly what it is.
And it appears that an increasing number of people are getting hooked by the hype _ or are at least thinking of taking the plunge into the information ocean that is the Internet, which until recently has been the preserve of academia.
Ron Craig of Atlanta, who spends his day in front of a computer for United Airlines, has been on it three months. He spends at least an hour and a half a day at it. "I just know there's so much there, and I can't stop going for it. I know if I keep looking, I'll stumble on something interesting."
Martha Ann Stegar, 64, of Atlanta has continued on the Internet since retiring as a writer at Georgia Tech.
"I love e-mail. I've got friends all over the world who I contact. I have two daughters, both of whom subscribe to CompuServe, so we can keep up with each other by e-mail."
Mickey Durand of Norcross, Ga., says he doesn't understand the Internet, but would like to get on it so he could communicate with people in his native France. "It's my curiosity. It seems to be so huge, big. It's amazing. You can log on to it and go all over the world. You can talk to everyone."
While firm figures are hard to come by, there are indications that more people are getting on the 'Net.
In the last year, several providers of Internet connections for personal and business accounts have sprung up. Nearly all report growth rates of 15 percent to 25 percent a month.
An Internet Users Group formed six months ago, and soon divided into business and personal users. "We have a priest who comes, a Chinese translator from Taiwan who comes every time. We have a partner in a pretty good size law firm, and companies from IBM to individual consultants," said Mike Adkinson, president of the group and editor of Atlanta Computer Currents, a local magazine. …