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Blip. Blip. Blip. Your computer screen flashes: New Mail. You walk over to it, press a few keys, and within seconds a message from your long-distance lover pops up on the screen. It says that she never wants to see you again. Sound like science fiction? Think again. Last semester, this is the way a College senior broke her boyfriend's heart. And it was all made possible by an academic computer service called Internet, a communications network which links students and researchers around the globe. Catching Up on The Simpsons Valerie Glauser, a University computing specialist, said Internet provides an electronic forum where academics can trade ideas, research data, and personal messages. "The network fundamentally changes the way people work," Glauser said. "It is a major form of communication in our office. I receive meeting schedules, documents that I need to review, and requests for information through the system." Faculty and Engineering students are the major users of the system at the University. Currently, the University offers all Engineering students access to Internet. Through the network, students can electronically mail questions to professors, complete homework assignments and receive grades. "We had an exam on Monday and got our grades Tuesday night on the computer," said Engineering junior John Carbonell. "We have weekly computer assignments that must be mailed in before class on Friday." The network also contains information on hundreds of academic subjects, ranging from cellular biology to particle physics. Engineering junior Norman Morrison said he uses Internet in his studies. "Internet is like a library on a computer," he said. "You can read opinions and research on almost anything." The network also provides non-academic "newsgroup" services. Through these newsgroups, users around the world can leave opinions, essays and criticisms about thousands of different issues, ranging from sports and movie reviews to tasteless jokes and erotic fantasies. Engineering junior Albert Youssef said he finds reading through Internet's different news areas entertaining. "There are some really messed-up people out there," said Youssef. "In the 'Bondage' newsgroup, a lady wrote about her partner hanging her from a pipe in the ceiling and whipping her." Youssef said he reads newsgroups about football, baseball and basketball, but "the Simpsons newsgroup is by far my favorite. After the show, it's kind of interesting to see what other people thought about the episode." Other students said they use the system to read want ads, check on upcoming concert dates, and keep up with soap operas. The Internet network began as an experiment by the Defense Communications Agency in 1983. Today, more than 300 universities have access to the system. And Glauser said it is growing on a daily basis. "The thing that's exciting about Internet is that it's growing by leaps and bounds," said Glauser. "If you were to draw a picture of all the networks in the country, you would just blacken in the map." Five Hours to Europe Glauser said professors and students also use the system in place of regular mail. She said that an "electronic" Internet message can make it to Europe in under five hours, while an air-mail letter might take five days. "Internet collapses the time differential between countries," said Glauser. "You don't have to be up at three in the morning to make a phone call to Germany. You don't have to worry about the time differences." Glauser said she regularly receives mail from different countries. "I've recently read messages from behind the Iron Curtain," Glauser said. "People from Czechoslovakia and Hungary are writing, just saying 'Hi, we're on the network. Talk to us.' They're looking for pen pals, software advice, and information about computer viruses. I rarely even look at the location of where things are coming from. They're literally coming from all over the world." But electronic mail has its limitations. Unlike a telephone or face-to-face conversation, Internet does not transmit voice inflection, body language or facial expressions. Glauser said the limitations of Internet communication often lead to misunderstandings. "You don't get the eyeball-to-eyeball contact," Glauser said. "Often times someone writes something sarcastically and other people take it seriously. It can be very hard to resolve these problems." Internet users can do more than just exchange ideas, they can also kill dragons, rescue maidens, and conquer the universe. Through the network, computer users around the world can simultaneously play more than a dozen different interactive adventure games. Engineering junior Joseph Yeh said he enjoys playing Mud, a game similar to Dungeons and Dragons. "Basically you start with a weak character that you have to build up," said Yeh. "You gain powers by overcoming different challenges and encounters with monsters and other players. As many as 100 users can play an Internet computer game at one time. It's kind of amazing when you realize that you're doing the same thing as someone 5,000 miles away." Campus-wide network The federal government, research organizations and educational institutions fund Internet. The Univesity also maintains a local network which connects offices, labs and some dormitories on campus. The local network provides users with access to the library's on-line card catalog, the Medical School's calendar and a directory of faculty and staff electronic mail addresses. Glauser said the library's on-line catalog is the most-used feature of the campus netork. "Through the network, people can access the card catalog any time of day or night," said Glauser. "They are not restricted to library hours. It's safer because you don't have to walk through campus at night. It gives you more informational freedom." Glauser said the University hopes to soon connect all dormitories on campus to the network, adding that the University will first have to find a source of funding. In a pilot project, the University is currently connecting select rooms in English House, Kings Court and Ware College House to the network. But currently, only Engineering and some Wharton and Medical School students have access to the system. Many students who can not use Internet said this week that the University should give access to all students. "Internet should be more publicized and accessible so the whole University can benefit from the system," said College senior Lyenochka Djakov. "After all, I'm sure we're all paying for it."

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