HI!  I will be sharing a few thoughts about getting around on the Internet along with some featured sites to check out.  I will Keep It So Simple that everyone can take the opportunity to explore this vital part of our lives today.  First, let's go over a couple basics.  YOUR COMPUTER: Buy the best you can afford!  I like the idea of a lease because in a couple years you know you will be outdated!  Most of you will be happy with a windows based system although if you are a creative arts type, you may wish to go the Mac route where I am no help at all.  This column will be non-Mac (sorry!).  I will presume my readers to have at least a gig of memory so you can plug along with me.  If you have not yet joined the 21st century and are debating your computer purchase, here is my advice:

  • If you are college age or just getting started in life, budget for your rent, food and computer, in that order!  Get a lease or a system that can grow as your budget allows. 

  • If you are a young family without children, you probably can use a computer at work or the library so you can be saving up to purchase the top of the line a couple years before you start your family. 

  • If you have children, you need a computer, even a used older model, to give your children the help they need.  By and large we have a great educational system but it's up to you to supplement and tailor your child's education.  You should know them best and help encourage them in their particular interests and fortes. 

  • If your children have left home, you need a computer to keep in touch!  This age group is the fastest growing segment of America and believe me, you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Studies show that especially as we age if you are active and learning new things you will have a higher quality of life. 

YOUR ISP:  To connect to the Internet, you need an Internet Service Provider.  This is a pretty new heading in the yellow pages, also look under computers, telephone and television for cable.  When you have an ISP, you make a telephone call (which had better be a LOCAL, TOLLFREE CALL- this is important!) which connects you to a modem locally, which basically jumps in through computers to get on to the Internet.  The Internet, technically, is a bunch of computers all connected.  In the 1960's, there were three, by 1980 there were less than 300.  When I was using the Internet in the '70's, most of those connections were courtesy of the United State Government which was how I got involved.  By 1991 there were over 350,000 which nearly doubled to 727,000 by 1992 and now is exploding to over 90 million, growing FAST!  For an affordable ISP, Union Bank offers a decent connection for beginners.  My favorite in the area is the IVNet offered by Connecting Point (800-352-7018 - tell them plugger sent you!).  Your computer probably came with several options loaded such as AOL or CompuServe (by the way, if you don't use them, DELETE!). AOL is a separate network but I do like their instant messenger which you can use without being connected via the AOL server.  You can use the free Internet providers but be prepared for  the ads!  There is not really much difference between a DSL line and cable but availability in this area leaves something to be desired.