Inventors start here - at a price

Sites: Bill Pannifer finds food for thought: a site that takes the biscuit
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Inventive site: Bearers of bright ideas are invited to post them at Inventors Corner (http://www.harrogate.com/ invent/), a showcase for would-be whizz kids, and for the developers and sponsors needed to give substance to their intuitions. This new, UK- based commercial site encourages contributors to aim high, welcoming them with a cheerful cartoon of Albert Einstein, but the few inventions detailed so far are rather more mundane: hydraulic systems, glass fibre moulds and an electric bottle opener. Perhaps realising this, the authors have enlivened their page with Victorian patents for such devices as the Pedespeed, a wobbly precursor of rollerblades that threatened to transform the buyer into "Mercury, messenger of the Gods". Necessity may be the mother of invention, but a cheque for pounds 3,150 will also help: that's what it costs to place an idea on the site.

Sanguinary site: A heady, contentious mix of anti-bloodsports campaigning and biochemical prophecy, David Pearce's HedWeb site (http://www.pavilion.co.uk/ david-pearce/killkick.htm) has recently incurred the wrath of the hunting lobby. The British Field Sports Society has just pulled back from a legal test-case against this vehemently anti-hunting page, which it accused of usurping the society's rightful position in the indexes used by Web crawlers. However, HedWeb itself ranges far beyond this issue, with vegetarianism just one offshoot of an alarmingly confident master plan for the drug- assisted evolution of the race. On display is the full text of The Hedonistic Imperative, a call to transform our capacity for happiness by psychochemical means. The bookmark links alone provide a near-comprehensive guide to current scientific counterculture. A fascinating site, with a mission that is hard to evaluate without a degree in neuroscience.

Crumbly site: A "cookie", in computer terms, now tends to mean a vaguely sinister piece of code that embeds itself in someone's Web browser without letting on. Thankfully, however, a "biscuit" remains something to be dunked in a cup of tea. Biscuit of the Week (http://www. symetrica.com/biscu) is a new, sophisticated site dedicated to the relative merits of small, crunchy things: a pecking order for the peckish, a top 10 for elevenses. We, the public, are invited to vote each Friday for the new winner. Will it be Jacobs' King Club, McVities' Homewheat or Sainsbury's Zesters? Of all the silly food sites on the Web, this one must (inevitably, painfully) take the biscuit.

Counterfeit site: Bill Gates may have the originals, but who needs them when Musee Imaginaire (htttp://www.musee imaginaire.it/) can supply expertly forged simulations of 50 of the world's greatest masterpieces? This excellently planned, room-by-room tour of an Italian collection of "legal" fakes offers masterpieces by "Van Gogh", "Renoir", etc., done by a Cremona-based co-operative of legal forgers whose work, even when acknowledged as such, still fetches considerable sums (18m lire recently for a "Breughel"). Any remaining Post-Modernists, as well as fans of Orson Welles and Alan Rudolph, will have fun with the ironies involved, as does the gallery itself when it warns that "for some time it has become quite usual to come across fakes of legal fakes ... therefore, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises, collect only these authentic fakes". The paintings themselves will be on view in London later this year in all their fraudulent glory.

Nostalgia site: An Antiques Roadshow of cyberspace, the Obsolete Computer Museum (http://www.ncsc.dni. us/fun/user/tcc/cmuseum/cmuseum. htm) offers evocative photos and technical histories of old machines from the mid- Seventies onwards. Superannuated difference engines are framed in appropriately sepia tones (isn't that the 1512 I finally threw out only this January?). It's hard not to become misty-eyed, gazing at the lovingly photographed floppy disks and cassette drives, though pride of place goes to the first PC from 1975, an obdurate oblong of flashing lights called the Altair 8800, flaunted in several poses with harsh and soft lighting options to display its charms. Given the pace of change in the industry, there are no boundaries to this particular elephants' graveyard.

Thoughtful site: The best that has been thought and said is available, effectively indexed, from Texts and Contexts (http:// paul.spu.edu/hawk/+&c.html). Influential writings from Aquinas to Voltaire, by way of CS Lewis and Nietzsche, are accessible from this Seattle-based "Resource Center." There are detailed accounts of lives and works, and often links to online versions of the texts themselves. Users are invited to nominate additional thinkers for inclusion. No Cantona as yet.

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