It ain't that way no more.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that the tables have been totally turned, but today there are many people, even "normal" people, who spend a great deal of each day online. Quite a number of these columns have been devoted to examining how constant access to online tools and information influences the ways we work, relax, think. Though I have dictionaries on my shelves, If I have to find a definition, or a translation, or the correct spelling, of a word, I'll invariably do so first on the web, turning to the bound dictionaries on my shelves only if their online versions prove unhelpful (which rarely happens). Among piles of papers on my desk and in its drawers I know that I've got a couple of conversion tables for length, weight, volume and the like. But if a question of conversion comes up, the online tools will be the ones I turn to - though these are often distressingly formal.

And of course it's not only a question of finding what we need online, of being able to read the paper on the screen, and of experiencing the comfort of knowing that answers truly are "out there" for the taking (or finding). It's now considered "normal" to have numerous friends whom we've never met face to face, to spend half the night corresponding with people with similar interests to our own who may, at the same time, be at their daytime jobs, chatting with us instead of getting their work done. We travel to museums, even to exotic vacation spots, while sitting in front of the screen, and - here's the important thing - nobody seems to think that this now classifies us as being strange.

Go to: Who cares?