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April 1996 Letters

Kirkpatrick Sale's December Dialog Box is still sparking a lot of mail, while the debate on the appeal of the browser box is just heating up. See Fred Langa's Start column in this issue.

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Power to the People

Kirkpatrick Sale's view about the evils of computers is outlandish (Dialog Box, December 1995). Yes, the computer has displaced a lot of workers, it does present some health hazards, and it has brought about the Information Age, which can have implications for personal privacy. But as long as safeguards are put in place and there is a constant reevaluation of the effects of computer technology, I believe computers have a place in our lives. We need only make sure that humans control how the computers are used.
Mac Olsen, via the Internet

I must admit that most-but not all-of Kirkpatrick Sale's observations on computer technology are correct. But I believe he has come to the wrong set of conclusions.

Is it worth suffering through the carpal tunnel syndrome and nearsightedness computers inflict on us? All of the dehumanization brought about by their misuse? All the other atrocities Mr. Sale so eloquently describes? It might be. My hunch is that our chances of a bright future on this planet (and possibly others) are better if we all learn to pool our intellectual resources at the bandwidths provided by computers, rather than confine ourselves to the pace of the stylus on papyrus.
Maureen Grady via the Internet

Kirkpatrick Sale seems very much like the tyrants he decries. He seeks to control, and his tool is fear. His arguments, however, are rather weak.

Computers are merely tools that can be used to build up or bring down oppressors. It is still up to people to apply the tools that they develop-for the good of themselves and others, or to their detriment. It is in our own best interests to understand and apply the tools we develop in ways that support, rather than destroy, our lives and our environment.
Evan D. Flink via the Internet

There's no question people in power (government or business) will find ways to increase their influence through the technologies made available by PCs. But this is no reason to fear technology. It's a good reason to fear powerful people who do not answer to anyone in this mortal realm. Technology is a tool for power-mad wanna-be tyrants, tree-hugging Earth worshippers and everyday people who appreciate the benefits we derive from silicon.
Stuart Brogden via the Internet

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Dumb PCs

I agree wholeheartedly with Fred Langa's 10 reasons why dumb Internet terminals would not be a good idea (Start, February). Here are a few more reasons.

First, my software is mine to customize as much as my imagination and the software will allow. The thought of petitioning a sysop for permission before reconfiguring my setup or trying new programs is very unappealing. Secondly, putting all of my data as well as all the programs needed to access it in a centralized place begs for government regulation. And finally, it makes no sense to put $500 or more into something that depends entirely on the solvency of someone else.
Arek Pfeffer via America Online

I feel that the cheap Internet PC is a good thing for the industry and is something I would strongly consider buying as a peripheral to my existing system. While I think these devices have a lot of standalone potential, I think they will initially be bought by people who already own PCs. PC users are more ready to invest in new technology, especially something they can network into their existing machines for a very low price. In one-PC households with many users, this could translate into an inexpensive way to check your e-mail while someone is doing more important work on the PC.
Brad Barclay via the Internet

I agree with Fred Langa that a browser box may not be hugely popular because the PC users who would be targeted to buy it (heavy Internet/WWW users) already own a computer. I also agree that very few people would combine a Web box with their TV. But that leads me to another idea. If someone can figure out a way to make a 10-inch SVGA laptop that weighs about a pound, is durable and has a built-in 28.8 modem with a phone jack, a retractable phone line and an 8-hour battery, it would make a great Web browser/terminal.
Richard Rosinski via the Internet

This browser box wouldn't be practical for business and home use, but it would be perfect for schools and libraries for research purposes. The users would only need to print materials, not store them. And the system would cost far less than the average PC.
Colby Reich via the Internet

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On the money

I enjoyed Mike Elgan's column about online banking (The Explorer, January). I think banks actually shoot themselves in the foot by continuing to project the traditional image of large, marble-floored, powerful institutions while they lag behind technologically. If I could do all my banking online, I would.
Bert Whetstone via America Online

I disagree with your assessment of the appeal of online automatic bill-paying. Shelling out $10 a month just to pay my bills is ridiculous. My cost for paying bills is just the printing expense of the individual checks I write, which is nowhere near $10.
Bob Peck via the Internet

Editor's note: Don't forget the postage. If you mail 10 bills a month, that's $3.20 right there-and some of us mail a lot more than 10 checks!

I just switched my account from a bank that knew nothing of online banking to another that promoted it. I was surprised at my former bank's ignorance. Banks like these had better catch up with software technology. It's the future of banking.
David Powell via the Internet

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Data squeeze

Fred Langa makes a valid point concerning the state of disk compression software today (Start, January). I have found it to be more stable and user-friendly. However, there are still the memory and access time penalties when using such software. Partitioning is the preferred way to gain more disk space on larger drives. There are also the added advantages of security and data integrity. You can hide any of those partitions, thus making them inaccessible to other users. Also, the separation of critical data files from the programs partition makes them less susceptible to corruption.
Edward White via the Internet

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What's the password?

Fred Langa's article about the camouflaged hole in the MS Exchange security (Start, December 1995) brought up a point that will open some eyes. I was not aware that simply clicking on Cancel in the password dialog box would open up the computer! I hope that Microsoft will resolve this in the next version of Windows 95.
John Bryant via the Internet

This is a fundamental issue for those who use computers to manage small businesses. Microsoft's domination of the market is impeding the resolution of this problem.
Ken Emerson via the Internet

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Young drivers

Robert A. Swirsky says in his letter (Letters, January): "We don't let children drive on our interstate highways. Why do they need to be driving on our Internet highways?" Mr. Swirsky is out of line. Kids like me know as much as adults do (if not more) about the Internet and how to navigate it. Denying me the right to be on the Internet is wrong. I helped get it where it is, and I will help get it where it's going. Without us kids, the Internet would be a small community with only half the information that's now available.
Joshua Holt via the Internet

We want to hear from you! Please send your letter and phone number to:
Letters, Windows Magazine, One Jericho Plaza, Jericho, NY 11753, or by e-mail to We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

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