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Online San Diego

From the November 21, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1547)

By Jim Trageser

It's like something out of the Jetsons, only in La Jolla instead of orbit (although, admittedly, La Jolla often seems another planet): A fancy designer cafe built around ... computer terminals. The "it" in this case is C@fe Cybernet ( at La Jolla Village Square.

These cyber cafes have been around for more than 25 years now. Originally, it was theorized that by having dumb terminals located in cafes and other public places, the power of the then-massive mainframe computers could be brought to the public via telnetting. Of course, the emergence of the personal computer pretty much sidetracked the need for that strategy, and the cyber cafes never really caught on in mainstream America. They're catching on now, though – and San Diego is home to a handful, of which C@fe Cybernet is one of the larger.

The sleek, metallic decor at C@fe Cybernet is typical coffeehouse, as are the lattes and veggie burgers; the 20 high-end Pentiums are not. It's like a cross between Kinko's and Starbuck's – color printers whir in one corner, cappuccino machines in another.

There are two menus at C@fe Cybernet – the food/drink menu (they serve alcohol as well as caffeine) and the computer menu. The former has potato skins and salads; the latter Netscape and Photoshop.

The computer services deal at C@fe Cybernet is set up like a health club – if you buy the long-term membership, you get so many hours per month of access, a lower per-hour rate after that, discounts on lessons, guest passes and coupons. But unlike most health clubs, you don't have to be a member of the cafe in order to use the equipment.

Once you're on the computer, you can access the Web with Netscape or Explorer, set up or access an existing e-mail account, maintain a Web site (either bought from the Cafe and maintained on their site, or with one of the free Web site providers such as Geocities), or do general office work (Photoshop, WordPerfect, Power Point among others). They offer video teleconferencing, color printing and fax services. You can even bring in diskettes (or external ZIP drives) to work on your own existing files. (You cannot, however, directly access the operating system on the computers there, thanks to a pretty tight menuing system – so forget about bringing a stack of floppies and pirating Microsoft Office.)

And, of course, there are the gaming nights: Quake, Duke Nukem 3-D, Doom II and other networked games on Wednesday nights – for the same hourly rate as general Internet access. There is also a weekly family night for nonviolent games and activities geared toward little ones.

All in all, for those who don't have or even want a home computer, businesses such as C@fe Cybernet allow you to do just about everything you might want or need: E-mail, Web site, Internet surfing, research, printing a resume ... even playing games.

For more information, you can visit C@fe Cybernet's above Web site or e-mail the manager, Bill Burk, at