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Yvonne Zanos / What is this dot-com world coming to?

Thursday, January 11, 2001

Q: I am puzzled and I wonder if you can help me. I would like to know specifically why is "dot com" used so much? What does it mean, etc? It is used so much orally in TV and radio and now I see it in print. I would like to have an explanation.

MILDRED COOKE, Allison Park

A:I'm just guessing here, Mildred, but I bet you don't have a computer and haven't paid too much attention to those newfangled things. You've got lots of company. I get quite a few complaints from people who feel left out of access to information or just plain left out because they don't have a computer, don't want a computer or can't afford a computer.

All that dot com stuff you hear and see is simply parts of addresses for places on the Internet. If you have a computer, you just type in an address, click, and most of the time: Voila! You are there. Just as ZIP codes guide our letters through the mail, this dot com ending guides us to Web sites where we can find information, shop, or "surf" as we computer users like to call it.

If you were trying to reach me on the Internet, you would address your message in the space provided on your computer screen just as you address the envelope of a letter. My Internet address at work is "zanos@kdka.com." If you see an Internet address that ends in .com (dot com), that stands for commercial, meaning a company or business of some sort, .org stands for organization, .gov stands for government, .net stands for Internet related, .edu stands for education, and .mil is for military.

Even savvy computer users may be surprised at some of the dot stuff coming our way. I called Carnegie Library's Telephone Ready Reference Unit at 412-622-3114 to check out the latest. Carnegie Library researchers tell me the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers voted to introduce some new domains a couple of months ago. We can look forward to Internet address endings such as .biz for business, .info for information, .name for personal Web pages, .pro for professionals, .aero for the aerospace industry, .coop for cooperatives, and .museum -- this is an easy one -- for museums.

If you don't have access to a computer, calling Carnegie Library's ready reference line is a great way to access information that many surfers spend too much time looking for on the Internet. Ron Coleman is one of six library assistants in Carnegie's main library whose job is to answer any questions that can be answered in three to five minutes. Here's one of his personal favorites: "Is Mount Rushmore natural or manmade?" Call him if you can't figure this one out.

"Just yesterday, I was asked if Mr. Ed [of TV fame] was really a zebra, not a horse," says Coleman. "There is an urban legend going around these days that Mr. Ed was actually a zebra."

Like most urban legends, this one is planted loosely in fact. Coleman says the producers of "Mr. Ed" sometimes did use a zebra to shoot difficult stunts. Most of the time, however, Mr. Ed was what he seemed to be, a horse who, unlike what he seemed to do, could not actually talk. They put peanut butter on his mouth to make it move that way. Mr. Ed was just his stage name; his real name was Bamboo Harvester. See, you learn something new every day.

The Carnegie business library, Downtown, has a number to call for the latest in business information. That number is 412-281-5945.

Call one of the library's numbers and you can get all kinds of useful or useless information even if you don't have a computer, don't want a computer or can't afford a computer. And best of all, it's free.


Post Your Problems appears Tuesday through Friday, addressing questions and problems from readers. Yvonne Zanos from KDKA-TV looks into consumer-related issues, including difficulties with products and services. Post-Gazette Staff Writer Lawrence Walsh helps sort through bureaucratic problems.

Yvonne Zanos is KDKA-TV consumer editor. She can be reached at 412-575-2234, zanos@kdka.com, or go to www.kdka.com and click on Consumer Action and follow prompts, or write c/o KDKA-TV, One Gateway Center, Pittsburgh 15222.



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