Internet Story: 02 Feb 1999
Sub £200 PC is here (almost) The worlds first sub £200 PC has found favor with French shoppers. Launched over the weekend by French supermarket chain Géant, 3000 Power Net 300 machines have already been sold. At F1,990 for a 300MHz(Cyrix)/32Mb/15" monitor/56K Modem/Win 98 - it's a bargain. No details are available when this PC will be available in the UK, though it's expected to be soon. Looks like we're about to see an unprecedented explosion in people rushing onto the Net this year - cheap PCs and free ISPs... that's as long as Oftel and BT don't interfere with the free ISPs! Watch out for the rush of sub-£100 printers too. Canon, HP (under the Apollo brand) and Lexmark all have offerings.
Net Strike Also in France this weekend we saw the second of their 24 hour "Net Strikes", where French users of the Net stopped using it in protest over the per-minute billing of the telecoms companies. This time it wasn't just the French though. Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland were the first coordinated European actions in protest against high access charges. The boycott was coordinated by the UK-based Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) which has developed a Website and a mailing list to combine the different national campaigns. We're in an interesting situation in the UK - we now have free ISPs running on the back of the telecoms overcharge, this would be radically changed if we had US style flat-rate charges for calls. (Personally, I'd still rather have the flat-rate call and pay £10/month for ISP).
Hotels for Everybody Ever wondered how you can reliably find hotels in the UK that cater for disabled people. Want to know where there's wheel chair access in mainstream hotels? Well the site for you is EVERYBODY'S Hotel Directory, which we have featured on our "Places to Stay" page for a little while now. The site was researched and built over two years by 27-year-old Jonathan Kaye, who has cerebral palsy. It lists by location over 2,000 hotels with facilities for people with disabilities, as well as good accommodation for able bodied friends and family. A simple but effective site design allows users to easily locate accomodation easily.
Amazing Hero! Hero Joy Nightingale is 12 and suffers from "locked-in syndrome", a profound apraxia caused by brain damage that renders her body useless and her voice mute. She is unlikely ever to be able to walk, feed or care for herself but, thanks to the dedicated efforts of her mother, Pauline Reid, Hero can communicate. When her daughter was four, Pauline devised a complicated system of hand gestures which equate to the alphabet.
The moment Hero's words first filtered through, it was clear that she was an
Now she's taken to the Net. By dictating to her mother, who types, Hero has created an Internet magazine, "From the Window", which contains articles by the likes of George Carey, Melvyn Bragg, Margaret Atwood and Kofi Annan - all of whom she has convinced to writing for her.
Sad reference to her local education authority, whom she writes a lot about: "My LEA stopped funding my music 2 years ago and last February took away my computer too. It is the stuff of waking nightmare. They despise my individuality and the headaches it causes them. It is only the bureaucrats and administrators - tutors, therapists, doctors are fine - but it saps at one's spirit so. And so much time is spent writing letters." From her latest Diary, 18Jan1999.
Another FREE ISP Martin Dawes is the latest ISP to convert from fee paying to free (cost of local call only) ISP. Today they announced that their Breathe Net will be free (£1 for phone support, like FreeServe). On Saturday Tesco did the same thing. Breathe Net, like FreeServe is actually run by The Planet, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Energis, plc. There's a difference with Breathe Net though, from next month it will include Unified Call Management (UCM), a service called Breathe Contact. This means that members can pick up voicemail messages, faxes and e-mails from its Website. Or they can have their e-mails read to them over the phone. They can have one telephone number to unify voice and fax numbers and different e-mail addresses, and people without a computer can still have an e-mail address and receive messages through the phone. Estimates are now putting the UK market share of free ISPs at 90% in the next two years. FreeServe already has 1 million users signed up. Watch out for many more conversions soon. Warning: BT are getting a bit peeved about the amount of money that these ISPs are allegedly making and are trying to persuade Oftel to change the rules in its favor. One of the biggest revenue sources for these ISPs is the default configured home page that the browsers are set to when you install their software. FreeServe teamed up with banner advertiser DoubleClick, Inc. to present banner ads on FreeServe's portal home page. Most of the 1 million users still have their default home page set to this and see it every time they logon. FreeServe will also start dealing in shares this summer: their financial channel starts next month, providing personal investment information, allowing users to check the value of their shares and unit trusts and look up background information on companies in which they are considering investing. See our list of Free ISPs
Andrew Stringer, © Pendle.Net Ltd, 1999