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2 S.L. CAFES AIM TO ‘NET CUSTOMERS

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Two Salt Lake businesses are offering a little Java with their java.

Mocha Mo'dem and A Cup of Joe are both cyber cafes - a thoroughly '90s blend of coffee house and technology. They serve up beverages, pastries and access to computer terminals.Customers can use the computers to browse the World Wide Web - where pages made with the Java programming language are the rage - chat via e-mail and do high-tech work.

The two cafes, though, are taking different tacks across the cyber frontier.

Mocha Mo'dem aims to be a computer hot spot for self-employed and small-business owners who want a comfortable place to take care of work. Cup of Joe wants to be a gathering place where patrons can noodle on the 'Net while socializing.

Cyber cafes are sprouting in cozy corners around the world as entrepreneurs blend the old-fashioned concept of public meeting place with the allure of new technology. A World Wide Web site dedicated to chronicling the phenomenon lists more than 100 cyber cafes - a conservative count.

Mark Dziecielewski, who runs the web Cyber Cafe Guide, said the cafes are the subject of university dissertations, projects for architecture and design students and Use-net newsgroups.

The oldest cafe - Electronic Cafe International, based in Santa Monica - set up shop in 1984, but it wasn't until interest in the Internet exploded that the idea caught on. Salt Lake City is just joining the bytewagon.

Joe Pitti and Mark Chambers opened A Cup of Joe six weeks ago in the bottom of the Artspace Rubber Company Building, 353 W. 200 South. The business has "a little bit of everything" - a cafe, a book exchange nook, an art gallery and two computer terminals with e-mail and Internet access programs.

The computer stations are a reflection of "the world we're inright now," Pitti said. "It's important to be hooked up to technology. I was looking for a way to bring the community together."

Use of the computers is free now; it will be $5 an hour beginning in April, Pitti said.

Charlie Paddock, owner of Mocha Mo'dem, let his ideas for a cyber cafe percolate for a couple years. Paddock has the perfect background for the business: he's a retired computer science professor who now dabbles as an actor with the McCarty Agency.

Paddock grew up in New Orleans, where he "drank coffee before I knew water was used for anything else."

The resulting mix: Mocha Mo'dem, which just opened in Foothill Village, 1400 S. Foothill Drive.

The shop sports sunny yellow walls, an ecletic mix of furniture that includes a well-loved armchair set cozily in a corner and pine tables with plenty of room to spread out a newspaper. Menu stands on the tables feature printouts of interesting web sites - The Klingon Language Institute and The Visible Human Project pages, for example.

And there is a display of fractal art - computer creations - by Lynn Bright.

But the centerpiece of Mocha Mo'dem is a bank of four computers with direct, high speed Internet connections. Paddock offers access to computer terminals with online connections, Internet classes, e-mail accounts and web page design services.

Each of his machines is loaded with Netscape, a software program for browsing the World Wide Web (the graphic part of the Internet) and other popular programs for word processing and design work. The cafe also offers use of a color printer and fax machine.

Customers can use the computer terminals free through Feb. 23. Paddock then plans to ease in charges for computer time. Prices will be $4 an hour through March and $8 an hour by the end of the year.

The menu isn't the focus here; using a computer mouse is. Paddock's customers fall into two groups so far: newbies just venturing into cyberspace and computer savvy folks who value high-speed Internet connections.

Already he's signed up customers who want a high-powered way to unzip computer files, skim through web sites and handle e-mail. He's also designed a web page for a local Realtor.

"To me, a full-blown cyber cafe offers more than just access to the Internet for play," Paddock said. "I'd like to be a small business access center, a full cyber facility."

But cyber cafes have critics. Clifford Stoll, author of "Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway," told the Washington Post it's "antithetical" to put computers in cafes where people are supposed to socialize.

Michael Holmes, an assistant professor in the University of Utah's Department of Communication, shares that view.

Using a cyber cafe as a convenient and low-key, high-tech office space makes some sense. But for social interaction?

"Why go to a cafe to talk to people who aren't there?" Holmes asks.