Hitch-hikers' Net guide to life, the universe and everything

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"IT'S NOT often that you invent something in fiction and then see it come to life," said Douglas Adams yesterday, "especially when, as I was, you are only joking." Joke or not, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - which, in the radio series written by Mr Adams 20 years ago, was a "friendly" hand-held device to provide information for intergalactic travellers - is set to become real.

The plan is for travellers totap into an Internet site using phones equipped with the next-generation Wireless Applications Protocol. The guide,launched yesterday by Mr Adams at www.h2g2.com, already has 22,500 entries from hundreds of contributors (who, unlike his character Ford Prefect, are unpaid).

Topics range from what you can find in Hobart, Tasmania,to what happens if you hit Marmite with a spoon (apparently, it turns white).

The site has grown so rapidly since it began seeking recruits last May that it has its own on-screen newspaper about site developments. Furthermore, anyone visiting the site is welcome to contribute items to it.

"We want to create something enormously powerful from the efforts of everybody. Our job on the site will be to structure the information. The long-term goal - which in Internet terms means two years from now - is that this will all be delivered to a device in your pocket," Mr Adams said.