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Lost in Cyberspace

Online technology keeps moving forward

This article was originally published on February 1, 2000 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

A few months ago, the world marked the 20th anniversary of the Internet (originally the ARPAnet, after the government agency that sponsored its early develoment).

But the fact remains that even as it approaches its 21st birthday, the 'Net remains deep in its infancy. Despite all the wonderful advances we've made in online communication and entertainment, for the most part we don't know what to do with this incredible new tool.

Hints of what the future may be like are out there, though, if you know where to look.

DigiSents is a new company that wants to take virtual reality to the next plane. Let's face it – at present, multmedia works only two of our five senses: vision and hearing. DigiScents is working on adding a third, smell – and is busy developing digitized odor technology. (Another company in the adult entertainment field, to put things delicately, is working on computer peripherals that will appeal to your sense of touch ... but that's not really part of the mainstream just yet.)

At their Web site, you can watch a promotional video, take an online survey about the importance of scents in your life, and sign up for their e-mail newsletter. They're even still looking for beta testers for their planned scent-generating peripherals.

So if you think playing Quake III with the bloody 3-D images and stereo sounds of people dying isn't quite realistic enough, perhaps the smell of fear and sweat will be what you're looking for.

DigiScents is counting on it, anyway.

Another use of the Internet is self-publishing on the Web. Say you have a book with a highly controversial topic none of the major publishing houses will touch – pro-life feminism, for instance. Yet you believe in your message and want to get this book to readers – what would you do?

If you're Rachel MacNair, you simply publish it yourself online. MacNair, a former president of Feminists for Life (a group begun in the early '70s after the National Organization for Women had a purge of its anti-abortion members), now heads up the Feminism & Nonviolence Studies Association, one of the many small but dedicated advocacy groups ignored by the mainstream media.

What the Web does better than almost anything is democratize the publishing world to an extent that Guttenburg never even dreamed of. Making this point, MacNair's new book, "Achieving Peace in the Abortion War," is on her Web site at It's unlikely MacNair was the first to take this route; certainly, she won't be the last.

Remember back in high school when our career guidance counselors would solemnly assure us that most of us would someday have jobs that didn't even exist at that time? FileKey is one of those companies whose employees ALL work in those jobs.

FileKey is a specialized search engine that helps computer gamers find add-on files for the Quake, HalfLife and Unreal games. Each game has its own site (linked off the FileKey page above), and each of these sites has a news area and then a file search engine.

The sites are free (sponsored by ads from the game publishers), the navigation is easy, but finding the files remains a challenge. And few games are listed on the sites – if you don't know the names of the files you're looking for, you're out of luck.

A better place to find maps for first-person shooters like Quake III, Unreal Tournament or HalfLife is at There are pages dedicated to all the major games, and from there you can find almost any add-on pack (new maps, character "skins," upgrades) you mightwant. The search engine is easy to figure out, and brings up dozens, even hundreds of files. You have to use their WONSWAP browser plugin to use them, but it seems stable and appears only when you download files from