Riding the I-Way

YEARS ago when Gayatri Patel, a product manager at Tandem Computer Inc, bought an encyclopaedia set for her children, it was in anticipation of providing an avenue of learning - an avenue which her husband and her lacked as children.

She was miffed when her daughter refused to glance, let alone read, the set on the shelf.

"Why would I need the encyclopaedia and dictionary when it's on the CD-ROM at the school library, mommy?" was the retort.

Patel says that the school her daughter attends is equipped with Macintosh computers, all linked in a local area network.

At school, computers are available to children from Junior Kindergarten (read three-year-olds) up to Grade Eight (that's thirteen-year-olds).

Patel's daughter and her classmates surf the Internet weekly.

Part of the curriculum includes "talking" to students of the same age in Japan. E-mail exchange and information gleaned from surfing are used for class assignments and essays. Patel's daughter even spellchecks her work on the PC.

Gayatri Patel's daughter is all of seven years old.

Like the way the generation before them was swallowed by television, the children of today are immersed in computers. Their exposure is indeed shaping our destiny.

Yet sceptics are persistent in pointing out the Internet is all hype. That's what they said about the PC in the early years.

Is the couch potato of today the "computer heads" of the 21st century?

What's happening among our children cannot be avoided or denied. Their mindsets are being changed - whether or not we choose to get on board.

It's happening, it's real, it's here.

In the same way good applications fuelled greater use of computers, the Internet is cranking up hard disks and firing up communication like never before.

Is this the next hook to increase computer use in the business world?

But is the Internet all hype? Does not having access, or not being able to afford it, mean losing out in the long run?

Well, ever since IBM PC made its debut 15 years ago, many have gone through life without so much as clicking a mouse and still live and function none for the worse.

Whether or not we subscribe to the belief that the use of computers drives change, it is undeniable that computers are here to stay.

And should we wait for the powers that be to put enough PCs in schools? Or should we just go out and buy one (don't forget your modem, telephone line and software) like we did the idiot box?

Get on Net now and see for yourself. Who knows? You might just enjoy the ride.

The PC - mind tool or the toy of our age? Or both?

Anita Matthews

© 1995, Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad. All rights reserved.

Published In.Tech, The Star October 31 1995/ Start Box