How a Swedish message can ease Net headaches

Forget the PC. A Scandinavian service can get users online with a TV and telephone.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
You no longer need a computer to surf the Internet. If you have a teletext television set and a touch-tone phone, you have all you need to get on line ... in Sweden. The service has just been installed in a London television studio, but only for broadcast via satellite to Scandinavia. Several British television companies have been talking to the manufacturers, Infral of Stockholm, about launching the service in the UK.

TV3 Sweden, based in England to take advantage of UK regulations, is the first broadcaster to offer its own Internet services via teletext. Viewers simply have to phone the service on a premium charge phone number. A recorded voice tells them which teletext page to call up with their standard TV remote control. The telephone keypad is all they need to navigate the Internet from there.

"There are a lot of people who don't have the opportunity to go into the Internet because they don't have a personal computer, a high-speed modem, a subscription to an Internet provider and so on," says Per Leine, technical director of Infral. "Also, many people are afraid of personal computers. We have overcome those things by combining the two most common pieces of electronic equipment there are in modern homes - the telephone and the television set."

Users can call up an Internet browser, an e-mail sender, a fax service and even simple games on their television screens. The system does not carry photographs and graphics but, Mr Leine says, "this is a low-end terminal. I see it more as an entry point - if you really like the Internet, you will probably buy your own PC." He also points out that the text-only service could be seen as an advantage by parents worried about pornography on the Net.

You can send e-mail or a fax via the phone and the TV screen by typing in numbers for each character, although this is a laborious process: one zero is A, one one is B and so on. If you want to make life easier, you can buy a small plug-in keyboard for about pounds 30.

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