What's floating in cyberspace? Just about everything

January 08, 1995|By Todd Copilevitz | Todd Copilevitz,Dallas Morning News

Call it the Year of the 'Net, the turning point where everyone with anything to say, sing or display raced to stake a claim in cyberspace.

It all came into focus at the Cotton Bowl Nov. 18, when the Rolling Stones broadcast part of their concert to the world via the Internet. Cyberspace, it seems, is destined to be as much a part of our lives as television and radio.

True, only a few million Americans are currently using their computers and modems to get on-line. But from all the hype, that was hard to remember.

Deals were announced daily. Record companies, movie studios, book publishers and television networks couldn't get on-line fast enough. By the end of the year, all three major television networks had extensive offerings on at least one of the three major on-line services, America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy.

Television, movie and music stars lined up for on-line conferences. Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, MTV's Tabitha Soren, ABC's Peter Jennings, Vice President Al Gore and the Rev. Billy Graham all fielded live questions from computer users.

Aerosmith made cyber history twice: It was the first band to post a single exclusively on-line -- via CompuServe, in this case -- that could be downloaded and played on a computer.

Aerosmith then performed the first on-line benefit tour, appearing on the Big Three commercial services to drum up support for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, the 'Net's civil-rights defenders.

Even the on-line services began to look suspiciously like fledgling TV networks. On Election Night, all three major services offered their own coverage. It was ragged and couldn't compete with TV, but it was a start.

Come 1996, expect full campaign coverage from the computer. For that matter, expect the candidates themselves to reach out through cyberspace, hoping to bypass the mass media and go one-on-one with voters.

But not everything happened over the phone lines. Music and movie powerhouses rolled out dozens of computer CD-ROMs, blurring the lines of entertainment and adding fuel to what has become a multimedia frenzy.

Musicians such as Peter Gabriel and that guy who used to be called Prince created computer programs that transformed their music into a virtual-reality experience.

Movies continued their march into the games market. "Demolition Man," "Blown Away" and "Terminator II" became computer and video games. Even Disney's "The Lion King" made the leap to the video game fold.

Movie stars found new fields of work as well. Dennis Hopper, Margot Kidder and Brian Keith all landed roles in CD-ROM games such as "Under a Killing Moon" and "Cyberpunk" -- interactive movies that put the player in charge of the script.

The circle was closed when it was announced that two other computer games will be heading to the silver screen. The surreal adventure "Myst" and the blood-and-guts-galore kill-fest "Doom" are both in development by major studios.

In the coming year, cyberspace is bound to get more crowded, the things out there to do will get cooler, rates will drop and quality will improve. It's no longer a question of who will be out there; it's more a question of who won't be.

CYBER HIGHLIGHTS

Here are 1994's Top 10 developments in cyberspace:

1. Internet for everyone: Through America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe, millions of average users entered the Infobahn, invigorating cyberspace and irritating 'Net stalwarts with their newness.

2. Online services come of age: Suddenly everyone started signing up to AOL, pushing membership past the 1 million mark. And Prodigy, the network everyone once declared terminally boring, found a new attitude.

3. Rolling Stones 'Net concert: The band that defines rock and roll pulled the Internet into the mainstream during a concert at the Cotton Bowl.

4. "Myst": It's the multimedia game everybody's talking about.

5. "Doom II": Computer carnage on an epic level.

6. Aerosmith releases a single on CompuServe: So what if it's a three-minute song that takes 90 minutes to download?

7. Vice President Al Gore goes on-line: He's pushing cyberspace hard and is willing to go on-line to prove it.

8. Meet Mosaic: The Internet went from boring to brilliant, thanks to this software that makes everything accessible by clicking the mouse.

9. On-line election coverage: It's the start of something big.

10. The explosion of CD-ROMs: From encyclopedias to PC karaoke, information and entertainment blossomed.

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