By JULES ALLEN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 2, 2001
Back to the future
Welcome to my newest, totally authentic, favorite site of all time . . . at least until something else flits by. This is a hilarious romp that looks back at us looking forward, yearning for three zeros in the date and more leisure time than we'd rightfully know how to use. Ironically, some dot-comers are experiencing more leisure time than they banked upon, so maybe the end justifies the means.
For a person who misspent his youth and did so little time in school, I'm really fascinated by education. If I could string a coherent application together and take a weekend off from being self-important, I'd volunteer to do something worthy with the local school system. Yes, I'd become a science lab assistant! I can just see myself wielding beakers like a pro and wandering home smelling of hydrogen sulfide. I'd hang out at all the whizzy booths at the National Science Teachers Association convention and teach kids how to annoy grown-ups with the aid of chemicals.
My old Dad used to torture us on Sunday mornings by blaring out songs by Jim Reeves on the eight-track. The eight-track, for those who have had therapy to forget or are too young to know, was a vile invention that chewed up tapes and spat them out like used gum. So the aural assault lasted just a few months before the mangled tapes were replaced by something swinging, baby. Imagine my delight when reading that country singer Charley Pride was putting out a "Napster-proof" tribute to Reeves. Gosh, maybe I could make a list of other music that should never be copied and send it to the record companies.
The Internet continues to grow, and search engines fail to keep up. That's hardly breaking news for anybody who has tried to get a site listed or changed in Yahoo in the past few years. That said, search engines that poll only a specific set of sites seem to be getting more and more popular. Google rocks and rolls for certain tasks but just sucks wind when trying to find a subject or phrase with multiple meanings. This site caught my eye and is quite interesting in its approach to topics such as finance and the computer industry, for example. After performing a text search, it'll go off and troll the sites you've selected for specific text or images. It's slightly harder to use than your average search index but quite effective sometimes.
Secure and multilingual
Free mail sites are ho-hum these days, so there has to be a lot of value added to get anybody's interest. It could be an idea such as, say, encrypted communications between the browser and the client (good for keeping your private e-mail private) and on-the-fly-translation from one of 40 languages to another. Add a calendar, address book, file storage and, for the poor souls who think it's nifty, Web-phone access and you might have the makings of a great place to keep yourself organized. Some of the really good bits look like they might be locked away behind a "very reasonable price" model soon, so advance with care if you're really cheap.
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