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Web surfing may soon be easier, cheaper

March 31, 1996


One of the latest buzzwords in the online computing world is the Internet appliance.

The idea of an inexpensive, easy-to-operate Internet terminal surface late last year when Lawrence Ellison, President and CEO of Oracle Corp., the nation's second largest software company, began pitching the idea Ï and his company's prototype.

And its not an unattractive concept: Create an affordable interface to access the Internet and the World-Wide Web. Include access to e-mail, eliminate the need to install software, keep it simple to use, and price it at about $500.

Software applications would be transferred over the Net to the appliance Ï there would be no need for the end user to install or configure new software.

This would usher in the age of pay-for-what-you-use software Ï if you don't need a word processor, you don't pay for it. But if you want productivity software or the latest gaming software, you'll pay a modest monthly subscription fee, much like your typical cable TV bill.

Why the push to market a non-traditional Internet appliance?

Sales of new PCs slowed during the holiday season, a trend that's expected to continue this year, and manufacturers are looking for ways to create products that can make their way into the homes of the estimated 66 percent of U.S. households that do not currently have a computer.

One of the latest entries into the race for an Internet appliance is by TransPhone, based in Ottawa, Canada.

The company promises to deliver by June a $500 terminal that will integrate the features of a telephone, PC , fax machine and an automated teller machine.

The TransPhone device will feature a fold-out keyboard, with an case resembling a fax machine. After its introduction in Pittsburgh, TransPhone plans to market the device in eight other areas of the U.S. in 1996.

This Internet "appliance'' will not use no disk drive, and interestingly will use low-cost (and previously considered outdated) Intel 286 microprocessors.

The Internet terminal concept is getting mixed reviews from the many computer gurus -- a logical criticism -- but since the devices will be targeted at people without a computer and unlikely to spend the money for one, the idea could prove very popular -- and profitable.

RUN FOR THE CYBER ROSES. Just in time for the Derby 122, Churchill Downs has gone on line with Virtual Churchill.

The site is an example of just how nice -- and content-filled -- a Web site should be.

Virtual Churchill has the latest 1996 Derby Prep results, as well as a comprehensive overview of the Derby and its history and statistics all the way back to 1875.

You can even download artwork for wallpaper for Windows, graphics, and a digitized file of the call to the post. Virtual Churchill even offers you a chance to send a friend an "virtual postcard'' via e-mail, including a copy of this year's Derby 122 poster and a shot of the famous twin spires.

Tickets are also available -- for Derby 123 -- by e-mail.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR. I-Show '96 is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, 1996, at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville.

The event is sponsored by IgLou Internet Services, a Louisville-based Internet provider, and will offer exhibits on the Internet, and representatives from major players in the on-line world.

I-Show '96 will feature presentations from Aliza "Cybergrrl'' Sherman, owner of the New York-based Cybergrrl Internet Media, and Elizabeth Brown Lawler of Lawler Creative Media.

The show opens at 10 a.m. in the South Wing at the fairgrounds. Admission is free to IgLou members, and $5 per person for the rest of us. For more information, call (502) 966-3848, or send e-mail to iglou.

DIGITAL DISPATCH. Even casual fans of C|Net Central, the cable television on-line computer magazine broadcast Fridays and Sundays on the Sci-Fi Channel and Saturdays and Sundays on the USA Network may want to consider subscribing to the Digital Dispatch.

The Dispatch isn't a printed newspaper or magazine; its basically an e-mail bulletin transmitted every Thursday via the Internet. It includes topics that you'll see on the following C|Net Central television program, and other highlights of what's new in the world of on-line computing.

To subscribe to the Digital Dispatch:

Send an e-mail message to subscribe@cnet.com

You must send the message from the account that you wish to subscribe. Otherwise, they won't know which mailbox to send your Dispatch to.

The message subject should say only: subscribe dispatch

The message body should say only: subscribe dispatch. That's all it takes. And each Thursday, you'll receive via the Internet a complete listing of what's new on C|Net Central.

For more information point your browser to C|Net Central's home page.

ONLINE GOES ONLINE. This column (and previous columns) will soon be available on my World-Wide Web home page, known as Typo.

Typo will be optimized for Netscape Navigator 2.0, and if all goes well, will make use of frames and other Netscape HTML extensions. Each column will feature links directly to the Internet resources that you find listed here -- no more typing in lengthy URLs -- and the full text of all previous columns will be available.

I've also included links to my favorite spots on the Web, a list of Internet search engines and other goodies that may change from time to time.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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