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THE CUTTING EDGE / MULTIMEDIA

Going Over the Brink of Technology

August 12, 1996

It may be boom time on the Internet, but a number of new-media companies that just a few years ago looked like the Next Big Thing are now going bust.

Digital Pictures, a San Mateo company that went beyond the conventions of traditional video games and created compact-disc-based interactive movies, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 29. (Times Mirror Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, holds a stake in the firm.)

Digital Pictures, which achieved notoriety a couple of years back when its title "Night Trap" became the target of politicians critical of video game violence, found that games using full-motion video simply didn't appeal to a very wide audience--and particularly not to the young males who make up the core of the video game market.

AND Interactive, a 7-year-old Los Angeles company that was among the early proponents of interactive television, closed its doors last Tuesday and laid off 46 employees. The company, now 80%-owned by cable giant Tele-Communications Inc., had to change direction when the interactive television market failed to develop. Recently it had been focused on creating Web sites and CD-ROM programs, but it simply couldn't generate enough sales to justify its existence, a TCI spokeswoman said.

CYBERSPACE / ON THE NET

* Follow the Republican National Convention in San Diego this week at http://www.rnc.org. There's a daily calendar of events, many of which will be broadcast live over the Internet using RealAudio and CU-SeeMe applications. A series of live chats with prominent members of the GOP will be featured daily. Visitors can get up to speed on presidential candidate Bob Dole by reading about his personal history, where he stands on the issues and transcripts of his recent speeches.

* Another site sure to be following the Republican convention is the Doonesbury Electronic Town Hall (http://www.doonesbury.com). Based on Garry Trudeau's popular comic strip, it provides a daily dose of political news and a soapbox from which you can share your opinions with other visitors.

* If recent headline-grabbing airline disasters have got you skittish, visit the Air Safety Home Page at http://www.airsafe.com. You'll find safety tips (most accidents occur during takeoff and landing, so nonstop flights are preferred) and statistics that will put recent news in perspective. (The number of fatal crashes hasn't changed significantly in the last 15 years even though the number of flights has doubled worldwide.)

* Consumer World (http://www.consumerworld.org) is a collection of more than 1,100 consumer resources on the Net. Get help filing a consumer complaint with a state agency, research a law or find a Better Business Bureau. There's also product information ranging from wholesale car prices to air fares. You can even clip electronic coupons and find product recall information.

* Want to see the current position of the nine planets in our solar system? Or the phases of the moon? Check out http://www.mines.edu/students/ j/jromano/space/orbits.html

* Do you spend so much time typing away at your computer that you've developed a repetitive stress injury? If so, check out the LA RSI Support Group's home page at http://www.geocities.com /HotSprings/1702. Learn more about the condition through links to other Internet resources and find the date and location of the group's upcoming meetings.

* Follow hiker Erik Weihenmayer as he strives to become the first blind person to climb the sheer, vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Go to http://www.terraquest.com for the climbing team's daily diary, background on how they prepared for the climb, a history of El Capitan and information on the American Foundation for the Blind.

* The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse shares information on how you can protect your privacy in the digital age at http://www.acusd.edu/~prc. You'll find fact sheets on the privacy implications of wireless communications, junk mail, employee monitoring in the workplace, caller ID and more. There's also a Rules of the Road for privacy in cyberspace and information on state and federal legislation with privacy implications.

Site suggestions can be sent to cutting.edge@latimes.com

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