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White House Is Definitely Plugged In

March 19, 1993|LAWRENCE J. MAGID | LAWRENCE J. MAGID is a Silicon Valley-based computer analyst and writer

I bet you thought that the White House was located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington.

Well, for computer users, the relevant address is 75300,3115. That's President Clinton's "e-mail" address on CompuServe. His America Online address is ClintonPz and his MCI ID is simply White House. All you need to send a message is a modem.

Whatever you think of his policies, you have to give Clinton credit for helping to usher the White House into the Computer Age. His staff has worked to bring modern telecommunications into the Oval Office, and he is the first President to use on-line computer services and electronic mail to communicate with citizens.

But for computer users interested in politics, White House e-mail is just a pixel or two in a rapidly expanding picture.

For example, you can use the on-line services to write to Congress and other federal officials. CompuServe charges $1 to send a "Congressgram." It can take up to 48 hours, so don't use it if you have something urgent to say. For $2.50 per letter, Prodigy will print out and deliver your letter on paper.

Better yet, Federal Soapbox is a $129 program providing information and tools to influence Washington. It's published by Soapbox Software (10 Golden Gate Drive, San Rafael, Calif. 94901 (800) 989-7627) and requires an IBM-compatible PC with about seven megabytes of available disk space. The company also provides three free updates.

The Clinton Administration also provides transcripts of presidential speeches, proclamations and policy statements via America Online, CompuServe and MCI Mail, which is probably yet another tactic in Clinton's efforts to bypass the news media by providing information directly to the people.

The on-line info is updated twice daily; subscribers pay normal on-line rates while accessing the data.

CompuServe members can read or download White House reports by typing GO WHITEHOUSE. America Online members enter the keyword "White House." MCI Mail subscribers type View White House. Prodigy doesn't have a White House forum, but it does post transcripts of major presidential speeches and press conferences in its Political News area.

For those who want a soapbox of their own, all the services offer forums where members can express opinions and argue about the President's policies and other political issues. In addition to the White House forum, CompuServe subscribers can type "Go Politics" to discuss issues with fellow Democrats, Republicans, Perot supporters, libertarians and others.

The CompuServe White House forum also has a conference facility where members can use their keyboards to chat in real time with other members. I didn't notice anyone signed on with the name Clinton, but I did participate in a lively discussion about the President's budget plans and his use of technology to reach the masses.

And if you're worried that Clinton is spending too much time glued to his monitor, forget it. The on-line services deliver the correspondence to the White House on a floppy disk.

Clinton's staff takes care of answering, but won't reply on e-mail. If you want a response, you must include a postal return address; you'll get an answer via what we e-mail junkies call snail mail.

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