Monday, January 20, 2003

Technology&Culture File from
NY Times

NY TimesJACKSON, Miss. -- NOT long ago, TiAndrea Beasley would no sooner have plunged her hands into the electronic guts of a personal computer than she would have stuck her head under a car's hood to change the spark plugs. But that was before TiAndrea, a 17-year-old high school senior, enrolled in a computer engineering technology class at her school in Port Gibson, Miss., a small rural town about 50 miles southwest of Jackson. Now TiAndrea, a B-plus student who plans to study business and accounting after she graduates next year, can install the operating system on any computer she builds in less than a half-hour. ... TiAndrea and Sarah were among about a dozen students busy in the school's computer instruction classroom, which for at least three hours a day, Monday through Friday, has of late been a homespun computer assembly plant.

Phone calls over the Internet may finally be catching on.When the technique was first used in the mid-1990's, Internet telephone conversations were hailed as a way to make long-distance calls without paying toll charges. The most zealous advocates predicted that the conventional public telephone network would quickly become obsolete. That has yet to happen, of course. Despite the money-saving potential, sending voice telephone calls over the Internet remains largely a niche service for technophiles and for people seeking cheaper international communications — like users of prepaid phone cards, who may not even realize that their discount calls are bypassing the regular phone network. Yet the technology is showing signs of gradually expanding to a broader audience, a step that could eventually mean wide-reaching changes in the telecommunications industry, if early experiments by individuals and businesses are any indication.

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