Leon Worden

Huxley be damned: I love cyberspace!

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, June 12, 1996

hey say that 1,000 new people hook up to the Internet for the first time every single day. A couple of months ago, I became one of them.

I resisted as long as I could. Really I did. With my sense of direction, I figured that once I hit the information superhighway, I'd never find an offramp.

Now that I'm there, I don't want to find one.

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley be damned. If this is the brave new world, then give me more of it!

Seriously, once you make that singularly personal decision to usher in the 21st Century with open arms, there is no turning back. The feeling of power at your fingertips is intoxicating.

And once you arrive, you quickly see what our educators mean when they say the antiquated textbooks of yesteryear are no longer enough. Not only should all schools have computers — they should be replacing those computers every couple of years and devising curricula that take full advantage of the vast resources of cyberspace.

Basic skills will always be important, but there is no way the basic skills of yesterday are the basic skills of tomorrow. I envy the children who are just entering grade school, for they will go places that I can only dream about.

Anyway. Back to today. Hopefully the cyber-experts out there will excuse my ignorance and any misused jargon in this commentary. I'm so new at this, I'm still learning ten new basic skills a day.

I found the World Wide Web extremely user-friendly. It didn't take more than a few hours for me to run into enough information and learn enough hypertext markup language to create simplistic (but fast-loading!) Web pages for Old Town Newhall, Friends of Mentryville, my Signal columns and a few other things.

There is no dearth of Santa Clarita Valley Websites, with more under construction all the time. Just type the words "Santa Clarita" into one of many search engines, and you'll find a variety of things.

There's an official "Virtual City Hall," with election information and an index of city services. All of our local junior highs and high schools are out there now. So are numerous clubs and organizations, most of which can be accessed from www.scvlink.com or www.scvol.com.

Thanks to the guys at SmartLink [later known as VPOP], the Santa Clarita Valley's first and biggest local Internet service provider (294-8163 or www.vpop.net), the local Democrats (www.daa.org) and Republicans (www.calgop.org) both have homes on the Web.

And everyone's Website is "linked" to other Websites of similar interest. When I talk about the SCV Historical Society in an uploaded column, for instance, you just click on the words "Historical Society" with your mouse and go directly to the society's Website.

The historical society in cyberspace. What a concept.

It's easy to understand why the long-distance telephone companies are freaking out about the Internet. Everyone in the world is as close as everyone else.

You use a local phone line to hook up to your local Internet server and send your e-mail through the mystical ether to someone who is hooked up at his end through a local phone line. No long-distance charges.

I recently had an interesting e-mail conversation with one of the stars of Germany's hottest new rock band — me in German, he in English. All for the price of a local call. Nowadays, going to Germany is as easy as going to Hart Park.

Another thing. The aspiration to police the Internet must be coming from politicians who know even less about the Web than I do. You don't run into pornography by accident. It doesn't magically pop up on your screen. Most Internet porn is by subscription only, and you would have to go out of your way to find it.

Besides, all Internet service providers require passwords for logging in. If you're so afraid the kids will search for "bondage," say, when you aren't around, don't give them the password! Log in for them, and let them surf the Net only while you're home.

Other, more practical mechanisms for locking the kids out of certain sections of the Internet are also available. Ask your software distributor or Internet service provider about them.

A recent Rand Corporation study found that the time has come for every American to have an e-mail address, just like you have a telephone, television and VCR. Ever since the Orwellian year of 1984, more information has been stored electronically than in all the libraries on earth.

It is a brave new world, indeed. And it's a blast.

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Please mail in your entry forms for the combined Frontier Days-Fourth of July Parade! For parade information, point your browser to www.scvparade.com.

    Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident.

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