I read somewhere the other day that Internet users tend to wat

I read somewhere the other day that Internet users tend to watch less television than they did before they went on line.

I can believe it. They also tend to pay less attention to their families, their jobs, their hygiene and the fact their pants leg is on fire but, hey, that can wait because they just downloaded this cool picture of Howard Cosell from 1976.

I know. After my first encounter with the Internet this past weekend, I felt like I needed to go into the den, stand in front of the TV and announce to my wife and pets that, “My name is Marty. I’m addicted.”

To which my wife and pets would reply, “Hi, Marty!” and then the 12-step healing process could begin. I envision it as giving me access to the new computer but taking away the software that connects me to the ‘Net, sort of like non-alcohol beer.

With the recent purchase of a new computer to replace my old steam-driven model, I finally made it onto the information superhighway this past weekend. Getting off the access ramp was a little difficult though, especially when you have a brain that operates at, say, 10 MHz and a computer running at 100.

The result was that my brain failed to notice that the computer had connected to an access provider in Starkville. I corrected it, but not until I had run up what will undoubtedly be a humongous in-state, long-distance phone bill.

I suspect that the phone company was somehow involved in this, but I’ll pay the bill, and I’ll do whatever it takes to pay any future charges because the phone company is now The Man. It supplies access to the daily fix of the ‘Net that I need.

But I know I can quit anytime. I told myself that the first time I logged on for my first 10 hours free and I told myself that the next day when I logged off with a few free minutes still remaining.

But while I have managed to merge into the slower lanes of the info superhighway, I must surely be traveling with a “Novice on Board” sign swinging in the back window.

When prompted to choose my on-screen name that others on the ‘Net would know me by, I couldn’t come up with anything snappy or descriptive like some of the other folks on the info highway. I briefly considered being known as Speed Bump.

I’m learning fast, however. Fast enough to realize that this technology could someday make things like holding this newspaper in your hands a thing of the past. Already I can access national and international news and sports on the Internet and the Journal has a site on the World Wide Web at http://www.djournal.com, although you can’t, as yet, access any local news there.

I’m divided on the issue. There’s something to be said for holding a freshly printed newspaper in your hands with the smell of the newsprint and the ink rising up as you rattle the pages. But there’s more information on the Internet than you could fit into years of newspapers and no ink will come off on your hands.

On the other hand, you can’t line you bird cage with electronic data and your newspaper carrier isn’t suddenly going to start going through Starkville first and charging you for the trip.

So I predict newspapers will continue to be a totally legitimate 20th century means of communication.

Unfortunately, the century is almost over.

Marty Russell is senior reporter for the Daily Journal.

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