Our somewhat irreverent look at technology at large

P> Automated Refills
High-tech has finally come to pharmacies. Microlog Corp., Germantown, Md., has announced a contract with Eckerd Corp. to install the Automated Prescription Refill System in more than 1,700 drugstores. When calling in refills, patients no longer have to speak to a person; they can use their phones to enter the information into the pharmacy's computer system. And just in case the patient forgets to pick up a prescription - or photos that the store is developing - the system automatically calls with an automated reminder.

Microlog says this is an improvement because staff can spend more time with in-store customers. Also, a live operator is no longer needed. So much for the human touch for people who can't make it to the store.

Hate on the Web: A History
You might think -- especially if the first flames you received scorched you in the early '80s -- that hate is indigenous to the human condition, and spews itself into every aspect of human interaction, including, obviously, high-tech endeavors such as the Internet, a "community" of free access and scant accountability.

The Anti-Defamation League, a watchdog organization that tracks anti-Semitism and other manifestations of bigotry, has issued a publication that purports to pinpoint the genesis of hate on the World Wide Web.
"The story of hate on the World Wide Web began in May 1995," when Don Black established his Stormfront site. Since then, the number of racists and extremist groups setting up shop on the Web has gradually increased. During 1995, some of the more established hate groups have gradually made their way onto the Web.
The ADL further reports that the presence of established, evergreen haters, such as the Ku Klux Klan, on the Web shades into an expanding undergrowth of younger, even less sophisticated haters, young skinheads and their ilk.
For more information, look up the ADL Web site at http://www.adl.org.

Me, Too
MCI Communications Corp., Washington, D.C., this week announced an almost identical plan to AT&T's recent Internet strategy. MCI's long distance customers can get five free hours of Internet access a month for one year or unlimited access for $19.95 per month. Non-MCI customers would pay more.
This comes on the heels of Basking Ridge, N.J.-based AT&T's plan, which has been wildly successful, attracting more than 200,000 customers in several weeks.
Although MCI is sure to gain many customers, the unabashedly copycat move is also garnering the company some criticism.
MCI, which has been known to partner with any company under the sun is not really coming up with its own strategic plans, even after spending shiploads of dollars in buyouts and alliances, critics say.
Both AT&T's and MCI's announcements have been more marketing than technology-focused. Sprint, Kansas City, Mo., which admits it is not a marketing force, should make sure to tell the public and the press when it follows suit.

Home of Contracting
Purchases from federal contractors in the Washington area rose $1.6 billion to $19 billion in fiscal 1995, according to the General Services Administration. The trend itself began with the end of the Cold War; contractors dutifully followed as defense agencies consolidated operations around the area. General Dynamics, for instance, moved its head office to the region. Now it appears a similar trend is occurring among civilian agencies and their contractors.

The Technological Dialectic
Marx caused no end of trouble by suggesting that class conflict drives history inexorably to its end. But oh boy, it would be worth the wait. So it seems appropriate that in this golden age of Internet and telepresence, technology should be seen as the prime driver. So how does it work? According to The Futurist magazine, it takes several decades -- even 70 years, which is about how long the Soviet Union lasted -- for a new technology to mature. It is only at the end of this three-stage process -- assimilation, transformation and benefits -- that society actually benefits. We're in the transformation stage where millions of workers are displaced, and things get worse before they get better. But rest assured, things will get better. "These good times will come in about five to 10 years," according to a press release from the magazine.

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