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Feeling like a youngster

Patrick Tan, 54, felt "like a kid let loose in an amusement park'' when he first got online two years ago. "It was an adrenalin rush. The first hour I went everywhere and, really - nowhere. I just clicked my poor, over-worked mouse on anything that was clickable," he says.

Once he got the hang of it, the retired accountant even stopped subscribing to newspapers and costly foreign magazines altogether. "I also went through a phase of signing up for a whole lot of online publications, downloading them and reading them offline, but eventually that became tedious and I am now more selective."

Tan's net excursions enabled him to chat with both his daughters, then studying in Australia, through ICQ. Using a digital camera, he would sometimes send pictures of their hometown, Ipoh. "I would taunt them with mouth-watering pictures of their mum's cooking. This really made them home-sick!"

A do-it-yourself enthusiast, Tan enjoys downloading and experimenting with a variety of freeware, shareware and utility programs. This has taken its toll on his trusty PC and resulted in crashes and frequent trips to his neighborhood computer shop. "It is the 'f' word at the computer shop - to Format my hard disk, that is," he grins.

The former accountant has also dabbled with genealogy software - a particular interest of older Netizens - and took pains to trace and a build a family tree, beginning with his great grandfather who migrated here from China.

He pestered relatives for the data - a particularly difficult task because of the dispersion, memory losses and attempts to match dates on the Chinese and Gregorian calendars. Tan eventually came up with a list spanning six generations, which he printed out for his family. "It was six feet long, and I printed about 30 copies until my printer ran out of ink. But I felt it was an important documentation to do before I die. I never would have done it without a PC," he says.

The Internet also helps in researching health issues. Tan remembers the recent loss of a friend to lung cancer and hepatitis at the age of 49. "I searched for information on the ailments, and printed out possible cures and treatments for him," he relates.

Tan equates the Net to a giant library and believes he has only scratched the surface. "If you locked me up in a dungeon, I'd still be sane if I had Internet access - better still if it was on an ISDN line," his eyes gleaming at the thought. "With the Net, no one can ever be lonely anymore," he concludes.

Tan's advice to his peers is not to fear taking the technology hurdle. "You have nothing to prove to anybody but yourself, so don't be afraid to ask and learn," he says.


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