CONFESSIONS OF A COMPUSLAVE
From The Cancer Chronicles #13
© December 1992 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
[Things are moving so fast that this seems like a million years ago! In
fact, I no longer even relate to Compuserve and my modem is considerably
faster than the "high speed" 2,400 baud model I bragged about below. But
I still get a kick out of reading this article and thought you might,
I look back on my pre-computer days as a golden Age of Innocence. It
was a time when I had not yet tasted of the Tree of Information. Delphi
was a tourist destination, GEnie an obnoxious TV show, Dialog tomorrow's
Now I am a compuslave, an infojunkie. By the time the sun rises over
the Triboro Bridge, I have already logged an hour or two on the computer.
America Online got me hooked. Next came Knowledge Index, a candy store
of data-bases. Finally I settled on Compuserve, my personal info-drug
It is difÞcult to tell you uninitiated folk about this. We one million
Compuslaves have a language all our own. We no longer write mere letters.
We download threads with our CIM. We don't smile. We <g>, as in
grin. Our modems execute more handshakes than a politician at a Masonic
In prosaic terms, Compuserve is a network of people with personal computers
of every description, all of whom access the same humungous computer and
thereby communicate with one other.
We share information on a huge variety of subjects. These are organized
around Special Interest Groups (SIGs). And Compuserve offers a huge bank
of information for students of cancer.
First, there is the Cancer Forum. About 3,000 people have signed up
for this unique club, although of course some members are more active
than others. Dedicated Forumites log on every day, check for replies to
their own previous messages and see what battles have developed. There
are real-life dramas here, as people search for and sometimes even Þnd
useful therapies or just share woes and, yes, <g>'s.
Most important is the emotional support the Forum provides its members.
Someday academics will keyboard dissertations about "Psycho-neuroimmunological
Augmentation through Interactive Online Information Services." (People
will be forced to stare at blank screens, as a control.) For now, it's
just exciting and fun. This Forum, like the many others, contains an electronic
library of texts and pictures. For example, I just downloaded a Þle explaining
how to get free information from the government¹s cancer info service.
Another feature is E- (as in electronic) mail. This allows me to zip
private electronic letters and Þles to similarly mesmerized individuals.
E-mail doesn't greet me with the same warm smile as Eddie, my mailman.
But it also doesn't require me to cut my Þnger on a discarded razor blade
while rummaging through the junk draw for a 29 cent stamp. Plus, you can
reply to E-mail instantly or take your time, compose your response off-line
and then upload it plus any number of documents at your leisure. I have
exchanged three such letters in two days with David S., an NIH researcher
who became addicted early in life. (David and I also fax each other regularly--a
confession I will save for a future issue.)
Through Compuserve, dedicated infojunkies can also meddle with MEDLARS,
the governmen's massive database of 7 million medical articles. There
is also a sparkling collection of thousands of recent articles in Health
DataBase Plus. There are other universes to explore, the Health and Fitness
Forum, with its celebrated Alternative Medicine section, and the New Age
Forum. There are even Forums that have nothing to do with cancer.
This habit, like any proper addiction, takes both time and money. It
is in the nature of addiction that those who can least afford it crave
it the most. But there are ways to minimize Þnancial damages.
To access Compuserve, you need a personal computer, a modem (preferably
2400 baud), some communications software and a telephone. One should also
pop for Compuserve Information Manager. On-line costs vary, depending
on what you are doing. At Compuserve, they run from around $6 to $30 per
hour. This adds up, and so I have taken up a very rigorous Gandhian life
style to afford my new habit.
To get on-line call CompuServe. Then be sure to E-mail me.... If I don't
answer, you might look for me down by the schoolyard. I¹m the guy in the
greasy raincoat, peddling Startup Kits to the computer nerds. And the
Þrst session is always free.
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