When You Can't Be There Face to Face, Technology Offers a Welcome Link

The article "Interfacing Without Faces," March 25, laments the spread of ATMs, voicemail, and electronic mail "smileys."

The 19th century world of village familiarity had already disappeared before the advent of the automatic teller machine and had long ago taken with it people's friendship with the bank teller. Yet the routine bureaucracy of capitalism, with its deposit slips and withdrawal forms, was hardly any less dehumanizing for patron and worker than the electronic ATM is. And lament voicemail for being annoying, if you like, but not for being impersonal: The telephone operators it now replaces themselves had replac ed a mandatory journey into town to stand in line to see the clerk "in person."

The author's second lament, ostensibly over smileys in electronic mail, is actually a lament over a technology more ancient still - writing itself. The author is looking for something intrinsically more "personal" in words on paper than words on-line. But my friend who can stay in daily contact with her brother living at the South Pole rejoices over e-mail as the only sure messenger of her sisterly affection.

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Smileys are indeed humanizing, but they attempt "to compensate for the impersonal nature" of writing in general, not of computer writing in particular. No texts, e-mail or otherwise, have "real voices, real faces." All writing is merely "virtual reality." But doesn't it work quite well? Many a friendship (not to mention a civilization) has depended on it over the millenia. When you can't be there face to face, any technology offers a welcome link, person to person. Jonathan Boyd, Baltimore, Md. Johns Hopkins University Equal rights

The article "Colorado Anti-Gay-Rights Amendment Takes Toll in State," March 18, concerns me because my state is considering similar legislation. It saddens me to see the amount of revenue that has been lost as a result of Amendment 2. If the amendment takes away rights, then it is unconstitutional. But it does not. It ensures that some people don't get more rights than others. The issue at hand is not just gay rights, but constitutional rights we all enjoy. It is unfortunate that a minority can govern a majority simply because of the volume of the protest. I will support any legislation that guarantees equal rights for all Americans. G. Archibald, Rexburg, Idaho Balancing the budget

Regarding the Opinion page article "Time for US to Adopt Balanced-Budget Law," March 18: It makes me sad to think that our elected representatives seem to need a law to force them to make economic choices that would balance the budget. I've already written my government representatives telling them I want responsible action from them. If they get caught up in gridlock, are not productive in solving problems equitably, or are self-seeking, they will not get my vote next time around. With such support our elected officials would have the best reason for balancing the budget: our vote. Charles Palenz, Camp Hill, Pa. Indiana's Bob Knight

Every time I read an article about Bobby Knight I have to cringe. The article "Indiana's Knight of the Round Ball," March 12, is no exception. With Knight's career accomplishments at Indiana, it is a shame that he is such a poor sport.

When he is gone, the one thing many will remember is the ranting and raving man in the red sweater storming up and down the sidelines, not a disciplined, hard-working coach. Derek L. Sandall, Afton, Wyo.

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