Readers Respond: Computer Moms And On-Line Services

MOTHER'S Day must have sparked it. After I wrote about computer discussions with my mother, several on-line moms riposted:

I too am a computer-novice mother with a son hundreds of miles distant who sits at a computer terminal most of his waking hours and is comfortable with computer technology. We have some of our best conversations when I need answers to computer questions. But my advice to your mother is to get a Macintosh and live the simple life.

I guess it's all a matter of degree. To my way of thinking, the "simple" computer hasn't been built yet. It will act much more like a smart robot than today's desktop machines.

I don't believe for a minute that you wrote the article ''When It Comes to Computers, They Speak Different Languages.'' I've already accused my son of writing it and not having the guts to use his own name. I'm an 80-year-old woman and am on my 11th computer, and I still feel the same way about it as I did 17 years ago with my first. It's like my car. I want the best but I [don't] want to know how to change the spark plugs.

Kathleen

I'm with you on the spark plugs, Kathleen. That's why I took this job. No one ever got greasy hands replacing a computer's sound card.

I see you have three communication programs. Do you think the Internet is better than CompuServe to reach overseas -- Israel, for instance?

Bettina

The challenge is not you reaching Israel; it's Israel reaching you. While there are many Internet sites overseas, it is far easier to hook into the Internet from the United States than it is abroad. That's because Internet service providers have not developed overseas as they have in the US for economic and political reasons.

Here in the US you can link up directly to Internet through a provider such as Netcom. But most people will probably opt for one of the Big Three on-line services -- CompuServe, America Online, and Prodigy. Each service has its own content as well as gateways to the Internet. The largest one, CompuServe, also has its own links to Europe and beyond. So ask your friends what they can link to, then go from there.

I'm contemplating taking the Internet plunge. Which service do you like best? Which on-line service is the cheapest? And which is the best deal? (Not necessarily the same question.)

Alice

Different services are helpful for different things. I use CompuServe to shop on-line and find technical help on computing. Most users I talk to find America Online friendlier and easier to use. Its Web browser, which allows users to navigate the graphical part of the Internet, is better integrated than CompuServe's. So for most users, I'd recommend trying America Online first. For those with more computer expertise, who like downloading software updates and discussing hardware problems, it's hard to beat CompuServe.

As far as value is concerned, all these services cost $9.95 a month with various time-related charges after a few free hours. But this equation may change when Microsoft offers its own on-line service later this year as part of its upgraded Windows software.

* Send comments via Internet (laurentb@delphi.com) or to CompuServe (70541,3654) or Prodigy (BXGN44A).

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