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No Excuses for Dodging the Internet

By Rob Kay

The other day we lunched with a business colleague who happened to be in town from Seoul. As we said our good byes we asked Tony for his email address and he sheepishly said, "I prefer to use the fax machine."

So what's wrong with this picture? Tony runs a billion dollar export trading company, is the graduate of a prestigious business school in Switzerland, speaks four languages fluently and commands a six figure salary. Despite his sophistication, he's scared witless of computers. Mention the Internet and he makes jokes. Mention email and he scoffs. Although Tony has gotten by very well without being conversant in technology, nowadays his techno-illiteracy is a liability. He's not doing himself or his company any good by pretending that ignorance is bliss. Not everybody in the business world is as insecure about technology as our friend but there are many out there who make excuses on a daily basis about why they aren't on the Internet or at least using email.

If you are of the opinion that the Internet is something for hobbyists or is too much of a hassle to even consider, you're dead wrong. We're not saying that every manager must be an Internet whiz but it only makes sense that you should at least be somewhat familiar with technology especially if you are ultimately making buying decisions that will affect your firm.

Folks, the Internet is for real and besides that, it's fun! Let's look at some of the recent improvements that are making the Net a lot easier to deal with:

1. Internet Software is reliable and cheap--With Netscape and Microsoft going head to head, the consumer can only come out ahead. The upshot is that the stability and features available are getting better every day. Email delivery is virtually 99.999% reliable--just as good or better than the US Mail. (The military has been using it for years). Internet Browser software is free from both companies so what's not to like?

2. High Speed Connections to the Net are multiplying: It used to be that WWW meant "World Wide Wait." No more. Local Internet services provide a 56 K connection to your modem which is fast enough to draw a page on your screen in 10 to 20 seconds. What's more new technologies such as cable modem service from Oceanic Cable (called Roadrunner) are extremely fast. Likewise, GTE intends to roll out an equally speedy Internet service through the phone lines called ADSL at some point this year.

3. Signing up for Internet Service is no longer a hassle. It used to take a special visit from a technician to your home to get you online akin to the old days when the TV repairman came in to replace a tube. No more. Now on some of the newer computers all you do is click on an icon labeled "Internet" and pull out your credit card.

Getting Started

What you will also need is a "Pentium" class computer that will allow you to utilize some of the very sophisticated applications such as receiving sound or graphic animation over the Internet. The good news is that the prices on these babies are dropping every day. Companies such as Hewlett Packard and Compaq now sell Pentiums as low as $800 (not including monitor) so there is simply no excuse that this is not affordable.

Once you've got your hardware, you'll need an Internet access account from an "ISP" (Internet Service Provider). There are some very good ones in Hawaii. I like Lavanet which has excellent technical support but others such as PixiNet, GST or some of the national brands such as GTE, America Online, etc are also adequate. The price averages around $20 per month for unlimited access but you may pay slightly more or less depending on the level of service.

Surfing The Net

Now that you have your gear what are you going to look at? Frankly, there is so much on the Net it boggles the mind. Since health and money seem to be on everyone's mind here are some places to start:

For the medically curious try:

Need help with your investments or some research for a stock you want to buy? Try these sites...

And then there's the time-tested magazines such as:

Finally, if you just want to have fun, try Real Networks (http://www.real.com) which allows you to tap into thousands of radio stations that are now on the Net or even watch movie trailers of the latest flicks.

The main thing is not to be like our friend Tony who, despite his brilliance and European sophistication, would prefer bury his head in the sand when it comes to technology.

Pacific Business News - Monday February 16, 1998

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