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A new study claims exposure in early education to computers can harm children's ability to reason, imagine, and play, and calls for legislators to refocus early education toward a program that supports strong bonds with adults, time for spontaneous play, a curriculum rich in the arts, and hands-on interaction. The Alliance for Childhood, Washington, DC, released Fools Gold: A Critical Look at Computers and Childhood, a compilation of broad-ranging studies covering such issues as the health hazards of computers, including eyestrain, obesity, repetitive stress; the need for physical contact with loving adults; and the cost of computers in classrooms. The report is available at www.allianceforchildhood. net. In a statement following the report, a number of experts in Washington called for a moratorium on pushing more technology into schools without further research. The Alliance also asks the Surgeon General to report on the physical, emotional, and developmental hazards computers pose to youngsters.


"Computers are perhaps the most acute symptom of the rush to end childhood..."
Alliance for Childhood


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Computers killed the radio

The traditional radio station is being threatened by advances in audio technology that could pull the plug on broadcasters unless they adapt quickly, said presenters at the National Association of Broadcasters radio convention. Computer-based technology, such as that used by Napster, is revolutionizing the way people get their music, traditionally by way of radio broadcasts and the purchase of albums or CDs. The emergence of MP3 files is converging the two models and forcing traditional broadcasters to keep up or risk ending up like the record industry, which is playing catch-up in the courtroom with Napster. Researchers say that while some broadcasters fear the effects of the Internet on their business, online radio listening also promises new opportunities, creates new advertising models, and allows them to change their formats into something more communal and interactive, making it easier to target and reach niche audiences.


"What we've found is that almost no one is afraid of the government monitoring us. They're afraid corporations are watching what they do."
Jeffrey Cole, lead researcher of Surveying the Digital Future


Sidebar. Connecting the dots

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3D Orthodonture

New 3D imaging software allows technicians to create clear, removable, retainer-like molds that align teeth with little pain and no obtrusive wires or brackets, reports USA Today. Using a system called Invisalign, Align Technology maps out a treatment plan with computer images. In typical cases, a patient wears more than 20 different aligners for two or three weeks each. Align targets the millions of adults with crooked teeth who didn't bother to straighten them when they were younger. The technology is expected to be 20% to 50% more expensive than traditional braces.

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Denial of isolation

Of the nearly two-thirds of all U.S. computer users who have ventured online, the majority of them deny the Internet causes them social isolation, according to a UCLA study. More than 75% of 2,096 respondentsboth Internet users and nonuserssaid email, Web sites, and chat rooms have a "modestly positive impact" on their ability to make new friends and communicate more with family. Other findings: More than 70% said children's grades are neither helped nor hurt by Internet activity; nearly 75% said they now buy less from traditional retailers because they shop online. But the Internet has only been a popular communication tool for the past five years, cautions Jeffrey Cole, the lead researcher of Surveying the Digital Future, who believes the Web will have profound long-term effects that most users can't yet detect.

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You've got braille

Blind people may soon have a new way to read email, Web pages, and ebooks thanks to an electronic Braille reader developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The compact machine has built-in software that turns electronic text into Braille characters on a small rotating cylinder connected to a PC. Using disks, rods, and small motors, the reader produces 64 different combinations of raised Braille along the rim of the cylinder. NIST asked 250 blind volunteers to test an early prototype for a year, incorporating their suggestions into the final design. The machine, demonstrated at the Electronic Book 2000 Conference in Washington, was designed as a low-cost alternative to existing electronic Braille readers, which go for as much as $15,000 each; NIST estimates its new reader could be manufactured for as little as $1,000 per unit.

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All's fare

Ten New York City taxis equipped with Palm VIIs tucked into a pouch behind the driver's seat hit the streets for a six-month pilot program that allows passengers to look up weather, movie listings, sports reports, political news, and the latest stock prices. Yahoo!, Inc., Medallion Financial Corp., which owns exclusive taxi advertising rights in some 10,000 cabs nationwide, and Web.Palm, Inc. joined forces to bring the service to the city that never sleeps at no extra cost for a ride. A similar program was tested in San Francisco cabs last year using laptops, said a brand manager for Yahoo!, adding this is the next generation in the taxi Internet program.

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Author

Send items of intrest to fox_r@acm.org

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