TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Download the data and run

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The Independent Culture
Potential long-term investors in British Telecom might like to know that plans are afoot to send the telephone the same way as the Dodo. No 1 conspirator, according to HORIZON (8pm BBC2), 'The Electronic Frontier', is Bill Gates of Microsoft - America's wealthiest individual. Gates would like us to use home computers to do all the things we usually do over the telephone, and, with the business market saturated, the race is on to hook the other four fifths of humanity to their keyboards. The profits are potentially huge. Microsoft employs 12,000 computer boffins at its Seattle plant not because the company really needs all that collective grey matter, it's just that it doesn't want them working for the opposition. Apple, for example, which is busy producing user friendly software that will take the clutter of everyday existence and box it in virtual reality. But what about the human dimension of clutter? As one of those responsible readily admits, the software is designed with the playfulness of 16-year-old boys in mind - exactly the age-group famous for preferring interacting with technology to interacting with people. GERARD GILBERT

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