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[Notebook]Computers used to fill large cold rooms.
Today, some of them can't fill a cozy briefcase.

Adventures of Janet in Computerland

Perhaps Alice had a livelier time in Wonderland, but who knows for sure? I recently posted my intro bio on a technical list out of Grande Prairie, Alberta (Canada). This interesting list deals with opportunities of the Information Age for the denizens of cities, towns and municipalities including that Forest Capital of Alberta.
[Dark Green Line]
Awhile back, I asked if telephone companies anywhere CyberCity flies, actually charge for every busy signal you generate when dialing by modem. Maritime Tel & Tel, our local telco, does. Crazy? I think so.

Our fearless leader wanted to know what I use the Internet for, besides running up bills; he means, "standard intro, please, Janet!"

Do I have the temerity to step out boldly after all our resident techno-wizards? I do have a B.Sc. in Mathematics. I did take Computer Science decades ago when professors drew trees and thingies on the blackboard and we key punched our programming brilliance onto (what else) key punch cards to feed the great maw of the mysterious main frame in its oh so cool room. It liked cool; it didn't like us; it didn't like our cards. Kept spitting them back at us.

More worthwhile to play computer. Perplexed personified were judges at a Halloween party at Queens University (Kingston, Ontario) when three computers showed up: Papa Computer, Mama Computer and Baby Computer! Shiny tin foil covered each big cardboard box, which covered almost all of each of the three of us. Flashlights, whirring of winding toys, clicks and clacks from this and that, and we had top prize. One top prize, but we three took that one top prize. Ah well,....

Autumn of 1996 now, and I say to my aging workhorse of an IBM 286: "You've come a long way, baby!"

So, what do I use the Internet for? This and that and many other things. I am, by profession, a freelance journalist (and research specialist) always looking for fodder for articles. I find a market for articles on the Internet, and sleuthing about lists such as CyberCity is very informative and educational. These lists are a great venue to ask questions; you will see more from me as the days go by. A recent research project was on how seniors are coping on-line. Answer? They either think they are allergic to it, or they discover it is the (sorry, cliche) "greatest thing since sliced bread." If they will let it, the Internet will re-open and partially return the world to physically restricted folks of all ages.

I entered the on-line world in 1991, at 2400 baud in the BBS milieu. International nets had come to the BBSes in metro Halifax the year before, and on ILink there was Eurochat. A close knit e-mail community developed there, some of whom remain in contact five years later. The first e-mail friend I met face-to- face was in Scotland, in September 1992, even before I met e-mail pals within Halifax!

When Chebucto Community Net opened its modems to the Halifax metro public in 1994, I was right there ... but 895 eager new users got there before me. You have to be swift for these things! Other community nets have sprung up in Nova Scotia. I am sure they are in a large part responsible for Nova Scotia having the highest ratio per capita Internet users in North America, perhaps even of the world.

CCN offers organizations the opportunity to share their information and activities on-line, under the "Information Provider" agreement. Thus its community information database has grown substantially over the past two years, far exceeding expectations of CCN founders. This was too good an opportunity to miss, and I cajoled one of the local Scottish organizations to do that. Typical, I ended up doing all the work! :-)

This month [October 1996], the CCN website for Scottish Heritage and Culture in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) received more than 200,000 visitors before month end. In addition to an ever growing information base, we have generic homepages for more than 450 Scottish clans, septs and families for the clansfolk of each to develop. It is a community project of the Scots within (or with ancestry in) Nova Scotia and is administered by The Clan MacKay Society of New Scotland on behalf of all Scots and Scottish clans. You are welcome to visit us at:
Scottish Heritage in New Scotland (Nova Scotia).

It's not only the information accessible on the Internet, it is the people you meet. After the first fanatic frenzy of the marvel of this, one settles down to a few long term correspondents. I have discovered and made friends with relatives I never knew existed, and caught up to friends I thought I had lost forever. A delightful flurry of connections generated from a reply a Grande Prairie denizen sent in response to my query about seniors on the net. Also a Nova Scotian by birth, and obviously an outgoing and gregarious individual, he spent some time batting back and forth sudden new discoveries of yet another mutual friend ... some in Nova Scotia, two even in Grande Prairie of those college years long long ago. The world shrinks.

I now depart for a wonderful evening with friends, accepting their kind invitation to share with them their Thanksgiving Dinner. To each and all of you who read this, may you also have a "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Janet MacKay, B.R.E., B.Sc.
Freelance Writer/Photographer
Principal, MacKay Research Associates

Homepages:
{*} In New Scotland (Nova Scotia), on Chebucto Community Net (CCN), Halifax:
http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~aa896/Profile.html
{*} In Scotland, on Electric Scotland, Grangemouth, Stirling(shire):
http://www.electricscotland.com/friends/mackay/index.html

{*}[MacKay Hall] {*}[Heritage Hall] {*}[Copyright (C) 1996] {*}