Believe it or not, Internet delivers good

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2002

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Internet. It was 1991, and a fellow student at the University of Southern Mississippi had rigged up a connection in the school newspaper office.

Atop one of the small Apple Macintosh computers inside the newspaper office sat a small internal modem. It was supposed to be inside a computer &045;&045; another type of computer. With a little spare wire and some ingenuity the two devices were mated together. TV’s Macgyver would have been proud.

Through this hodge-podge setup, the student showed me the Internet. He was fascinated with the revolutionary &uot;thing.&uot;

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I thought it was interesting, but was less than impressed with what it could do.

&uot;This computer is now connected with the world,&uot; my friend said. &uot;Watch.&uot;

He proceeded to carefully punch in a bunch of cryptic commands. No graphics, nothing that remotely seemed user-friendly, just text.

And, by and large, the Internet wasn’t much use back then. But my how things have changed in a little more than 10 years.

Today, for many of us, the Internet is indispensable. Whether it is used to make business transactions, order products or simply e-mail friends and relatives, the Internet really does connect the world.

And, all too often, the Internet receives a bad rap &045;&045; and lots of it is deserved.

The Internet is wide-open communication with no real rules or restrictions. And that creates problems.

From despicable spammers who clog e-mail inboxes with unsolicited junk e-mail to criminals stalking victims online, purporting to be something or someone they are not, the Internet can be dangerous.

But for every bad thing on the Internet, at least three wonderful uses pop up. They just don’t get as much publicity.

I stumbled across one such wonderful use last week while researching a story about two local pilots who volunteer to help transport medical patients.

I stumbled across the Web page of a Abby Ortiz. The 7-year-old is a leukemia patient who came through Natchez recently en route to treatment in Houston. The two local pilots were transporting Abby and her mother. Abby’s parents created the Web site to help their family and friends keep up with her progress. Given their hectic schedule, often filled with medical procedures and shuffling to and from hospitals, the Web page simplifies communication.

Lt. Cmdr. Bert Ortiz, the girl’s father, posts updates on the Web site and simply cuts out the need for dozens of telephone calls and letters.

The site hosts the Web pages free of charge. For more information, visit:

In an Internet filled with ugly things, Abby’s bright face brave story proves the Internet can do some wonderful things.

On a personal note, The Democrat newsroom erupted with &uot;ooh’s and ahh’s&uot; last week after a simple e-mail from Stuart Whitten, husband of former co-worker Emily Whitten, who recently left our staff after more than four years as a reporter.

The e-mail read:

&uot;Annabelle Grace Whitten decided to surprise everyone. She was born two weeks before her due date at 6:41 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25. She weighed 6 pounds, 15.8 ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long. She and her Mommy are doing fine.&uot;

Kevin Cooper is editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at 445-3541 or by e-mail to