Not Drowning but Waving
Jones, Avril, The Independent (London, England)
THE INTERNET, aka the Information Superhighway, is a subject we should all know lots about. It has, after all, been the subject of as many media inches as Charles and Diana. Unfortunately, though, the whole subject is still obscured by nerdy jargon and salacious natter about cybersex.
Any novice might be forgiven for thinking the whole thing is only for anoraky types who want to head for the virtual pub to meet some passing Panamanian fish farmers and compare notes about newt breeding. In fact there's far more to be gained from being on-line than just "net surfing".
To begin with, "The Internet" is a much over used generic term for being on-line. Take me, for example. I have access to the Internet but I don't need to use it. This is because I subscribe to things called conferencing systems that provide all the information and communication possibilities I could wish for.
A conferencing system is just a tiny corner of the on-line world, though it is huge in its own right. It gives me an e-mail address for private correspondence, a vast choice of "conferences" or "forums" for discussion of every imaginable subject, or for buying and selling, and the means to search through most of the world's collected knowledge, all without stepping outdoors.
Commercial conferencing systems such as CiX and CompuServe provide so much that few people need venture further.
All this, according to some, is certain to turn me into a PC-bound zombie who never actually meets other people. This is rubbish; I've made many new friends and business contacts. The Net is not a substitute for real life; it complements it - much as the telephone always has, but with the added advantage that it can put you in touch with many people simultaneously.
I started to realise this about two years ago when a good friend tried to explain how a conferencing system account would enable me to socialise on those solitary evenings at home. He showed me how it works and eventually enlisted help from the Bikers' conference on UK service provider, CiX, to persuade me to join the on-line community.
My (then) learner motorcyclist status prompted immediate conscription. My protests of technical incompetence were cheerfully demolished and a widespread search of their sheds and skips enabled the construction of a primitive computer and modem. And so it began.
I was advised to acquire Off-Line Reader software. …