Wednesday, January 6, 1999

(Push, pull, or tow 'em online)

by Bob Bobala TMF Bobala

There's nothing like going home for the holidays to make me appreciate how much of an impact the Internet is having on my life. First, there's the obvious withdrawal I go through when I'm away and don't have access to my computer. Second, there's the painful reminder that much of my family is missing out on the wonders of the Web. We're finally making some progress on this, but it's been a bit of a hill to climb.

During a trip over Labor Day weekend in September, for the first time I tried explaining to my parents and grandparents just what the heck I'm doing working for this thing called "Fool." Now, that may be challenge enough, but explaining the Internet to people who have no context with which to grasp it is a whole other ballgame. "Hyperlink? URL? Dot com?" You might as well be speaking Klingon.

It's amazing how much we can take this revolution for granted when we're logged on and locked in every day. I mean, I don't remember the last time I looked up a stock quote in a newspaper. I can't imagine doing that now that I can just point, click, and tick at any of a 100 different sites (of course, where better to get your research and information than here at the Fool?).

That's something completely foreign to someone like my step-grandfather, who's had an account with a full-service broker for years. Any information he gets is of the long-delayed, expensive, printed fashion. He is the only person in my family who has ever invested in stocks, and he's got the right ideas, but certainly not all the right information. Talking to him just reinforces for me that there are a lot of people out there who could use a Foolish education, who aren't connected, and who may even fear the whole notion of being connected. (And some people wonder why we publish books and a newspaper column)

It truly blows my mind to think that just a few years ago, in terms of investing, I was no better off than anyone in my Internet-averse family. But now the playing field has been leveled, and average guys like the ones who run the Rule Breaker (oh brother, up 200% for '98!) portfolio are proving that the pros and the market can be trounced.

There's a long way to go, but we're headed in the right direction. Over Christmas, my parents got Web TV. A little bit scary to think that now they can actually "tune in" and see that I'm writing about them (I talk dirt about you every week, Pop!), but it's progress nonetheless. And now my grandmother, maybe the most visionary of them all, thinks I work in television. As the mediums get integrated, that may not be very far off.

So yes, Grandma, I work for the Fool Network. Tune in tonight for some of the exciting programming you said you most wanted to see over the holidays: Social Insecurity! and Crunching the Y2K Bug: How Much Raid Do You Really Need? That ought to keep you glued to your seat for a while.

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