VOICE ARTICLE May/June 1996

Computers, E-Mail, the Internet and more!

Part 2

"Getting Online"

By Spence F. Burton, Former President Branch 214

Judging by the number of "hits" to my Web Page after the publication of the last issue of the VOICE, many of you have visited my page. Since our last issue was published, many things have happened regarding the elimination of EI, etc. To that end I have added a new section on EI to my page, dedicated to the memory of Brother Jon Gaunce (President of Branch 2902), who passed away after a long illness in April. Jon, you will be remembered and missed by all of us!

Our Branch is continuing to computerize our record keeping, while expanding the information available via computer. They have experienced difficulties establishing a "dependable" link to the internet, and have not formally announced their E-Mail address. This may be remedied by the time you receive the VOICE, so check with our office or my Web Page for any updates!

Many NALC members are currently connected to the internet through America Online (AOL). Every weekend carriers from all over the country spend an hour or so CHATTING with fellow carriers about everything from EI to DPS to the Food Drive. Unfortunately, I am not a member of AOL, but I have been getting copies of the complete conversations via E-Mail from a fellow carrier (Gary Mills, carrier in St. Louis Branch 343 NALC). If you want to participate, or just drop in and "listen", e-mail me and I will provide you with the specifics!

The major commercial "online" services are: CompuServe (the oldest, and has some of the best software and hardware support available); Prodigy (a "family" type service -- good for children --but it has had a dwindling number of members, and according to several computer magazines its "interface" is not as modern as the rest of the companies); America Online (AOL) which is the fastest growing service and hosts the Letter Carrier Chatroom on weekends;  All of these services typically charge about the same UNLIMITED hours of usage per month ($19.95).  Adding to the expense is the fact that none of these providers provide "local phone numbers" to access their services in some areas.. This can quickly add up to a HUGE long distance bill!

The speed of your modem and the service provider's also effects your costs. Don't even bother to hook up to a provider if they don't provide for the minimal 33.6 kb speed that is needed to really "Surf the Web". If you already have a 28.8 kb modem, or if you are just considering buying a modem --- the expense of buying a 56.6 kb modem will more than outweigh the additional cost of online time! US Robotics makes some of the best, quality modems available, and one of their new 56.6 models should cost around $100. If you are going to buy a new system, INSIST on a 56.6kb modem!

All the major commercial "online" services allow you to place your own personal Web Page up on the Web. Most (if not all of them) have simple "Fill in the Blanks" software online to assist you in designing your basic page. It's a great place to start!

For those of you who are serious about being on the internet, you should skip the commercial providers completely and search out and subscribe to a local internet service provider. Most of them will provide local phone number access, and unlimited time online for a cost of about twenty dollars ($20) per month. Some will charge an additional, onetime "hook-up" charge of around twenty-five dollars ($25). Included in their monthly fees: one e-mail address; usually some basic internet software; 1 to 5 megs of Web storage space for your personal Web Page. Every service is different, so check out the specifics before you sign-up, and remember to always ask for a "PPP or SLIP" connection! The "Well" is one of the major service providers in the Bay Area. They provide you with a complete package of internet software (albeit Netscape Version 1 not 2 for Windows 3.1). They can be reached at: http://www.well.com/ My FORMER service provider, West Coast Online, also has local access throughout most to the Bay area. They can be reached at: http://www.wco.com/ If you want to check out other providers, pick-up a copy of Computer Currents or MicroTimes. They are free computer publications that are available throughout the Bay Area and in many other sections of the country.

Another way to get information about the internet is to watch TV. At least two (2) programs are on TV each week concerning the internet and computers: C/Net and Internet Online. Check your local program listings for the times in your area.

If you have children in your house there are some additional precautions you need to take. Just as in the corner store, and on cable TV, there are some things that parents don't want their children to see, it is the same on the internet. There are at least two (2) low cost programs on the market that you can use to restrict your children's access to objectionable sites. Both of them advertise on the internet and in most major computer publications. Remember, that no computer program can keep your children away from everything that you might find objectionable. There is still no substitute for parental guidance and control!

If you want more information about anything in this article, or have any suggestions for future articles, or computer usage in the NALC, you can reach me at:

Spence F. Burton
PO Box 5522 Petaluma, CA 94955-5522
E-Mail me at: NALC214@SpenceBurton.com
Visit my WEB page at: http://SpenceBurton.com

If you want to have your WEB Page "linked" to mine, or want to have your WEB site listed in a future issue of The Voice, just let me know. Several other NALC branches have direct links from my site.

Together we can help bring our union into the 21st Century!

This page was placed online on: June 26, 1996
This page was last updated (LINKS ONLY): June 30, 2003
Return to Spence's Main Page  E-Mail me at: NALC214@SpenceBurton.com

May, 1996 All Rights Reserved -- permission to copy non-personal information (excluding "coded" calendars and graphics, except for link purposes) is given, as long as appropriate recognition and written notice is given to the author. No personal information from GEDCOM files etc. may be copied in ANY WAY, without my express written consent! This page was originally produced using MS Word Internet Assistant and enhanced significantly with Netscape Gold Ver. 3.0. It is best viewed with Netscape Version 2.0 or better, with a screen resolution of 800x600 pixels!