Information superhighway gets its first exit

February 07, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Palo Alto has become the first city in the nation to set up shop on the Internet, opening its electronic doors to computer users all over the world and inviting them in to take a look around.

For now, computer users who wander into the "City of Palo Alto Demonstration WWW Server," as the city's connection is called, will find basic information such as train schedules, City Hall directories and maps to all the local restaurants and coffee shops.

But the possibilities are staggering. Ultimately, the city can put its library catalogs, building codes and public records on Internet. Ideally, residents will be able to apply for permits and even pay for parking tickets through their computers.

The connection was set up as a six-month trial demonstration project by the Digital Equipment Corp., which has several research and development facilities in downtown Palo Alto. Digital developed a program for putting the city on-line for free in hopes of later marketing the product to other cities.

Digital and city officials were euphoric last Thursday about getting the city on-line, an effort that took just six weeks.

"[It] truly opens possibilities and potential we haven't even imagined yet," said Mayor Liz Kniss. When she was named mayor just last month, Ms. Kniss said getting the city on the information superhighway was one of her top priorities.

Texas was the first state government to get onto Internet, but Digital officials say Palo Alto is the first city to be connected. The city has been on-line all week, but officials didn't announce its electronic arrival until Thursday.

Having the city on Internet means that anyone who has access to the global computer network -- through work, school or a personal account -- can tap into a body of information that will grow as data is added during the trial period. Only 6 percent of households nationwide have access to Internet.

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