Where technology brought us 

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The Internet takes us around the world in seconds

By Pam Berenger, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Nobuko Oyabu
Typing a few keystrokes can take a person onto the Internet and its trove of information and entertainment.

Surfin' has taken on new meaning in the 1990s as people catch one of the biggest technological waves of the century.

No wax is needed on the keyboards and little balance is required, although hand-eye coordination is a necessity when using a mouse. If a person can sit on a chair and hit a few buttons, they can fly around the world in a split second.

It's the Internet.

Simply put, the Internet is a series of connected computer networks that allow users to communicate with each other, or to track information, through a specific protocol or computer language known as TCP/IP. Information is transferred by phone lines, fiber optics and satellites.

It's becoming increasingly popular. Computers are everywhere, from classrooms to a farmer's machine shed office where they can, in an instant, look up the latest information on AIDS research or commodity prices at the Chicago Board of Trade.

``The Internet has gotten mainstream,'' Leslie DuPree, Quad-Cities Online administrator, said. ``When the good ol' boys at the coffee shop are talking about ebay, you know the Internet is here to stay.'' is just one site on the Internet where users can go to buy, sell or trade items and chat. The Internet has broken physical barriers, Ms. DuPree said.

``You don't have to go anywhere,'' QC Online web master Randy Fisk said. ``You can sit at your computer in a housecoat with a cup of coffee and buy a book. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ''

Visit to buy a book, or to shop for groceries.

Retailers should be worried, especially those with items that don't have to tried on or smelled, Ms. DuPree said. ``The way the Internet is changing our lives is subtle. Have businesses noticed we haven't been in?''

Teens in the Quad-Cities chat with friends they've made across the country and can play sophisticated interactive computer games with other teens from all over the world.

A 6-year-old can design her own Barbie doll at and anyone with a sound card on their computer can listen to the latest music or video clips at one of many sites on the 'Net.

If anyone knows exactly how many sites are on the Internet, or how many people are using, they're not telling. There are search engines that help people find what they're looking for. The trick is to learn to narrow the search.

Ms. DuPree said QC Online's main page ( receives about 4,500 visitors a day. That doesn't include people who skip that page and go to other pages at the site. Either way, Ms. DuPree said there has been more than a 100 percent increase over last year.

QC Online is more than a web page. It is an internet service provider or ISP. As a host site, QC Online provides local connection to the Internet.

In addition to being an ISP, QC Online also is a host to 150 commercial web sites all linked to its main page.

Although computers started ``talking'' to each other several decades ago through bulletin boards, ISP's didn't get started until the early 1990s, Ms. DuPree said. Even then it was all text and complicated.

``You had to really want it back then,'' Mr. Fisk said.

It's much different today. New programs, like Microsoft Windows, have made web browsing easier. Yet, Ms. DuPree said, it's still not as simple as cable television.

While surfing the Internet is one of the top reasons people want to be ``connected,'' many people initially say they want only email.

It's not long before they realize they use it for a lot more than email, Ms. DuPree said. QC Online handles more than 20,000 email messages a day.

Email has become one of the cheapest ways of communicating. Folks can type one letter and send it to all their friends with access to email, at punch of a key. The lines never are busy and there are no long distance charges.

For further information on Quad-Cities Online, call 757-5037 or visit

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.