Facebook Twitter

Plenty of Americans are settling into e-life

SHARE Plenty of Americans are settling into e-life

A fellow known as DotComGuy has been living by Internet alone for half a year now. The U.S. government has validated e-signatures as legitimate in contract transactions. The number of adults using computers has passed the halfway mark.

Dramatically, surely and not so slowly anymore, use of home computers is changing the way we live. DotComGuy — that's his legal name, believe it or not — symbolizes what already has become possible, an Associated Press account shows.

For six months, the story notes, he has stayed put at a Dallas townhouse, taking care of all his consumer needs via the Internet. It's possible, of course, that before his planned year of cyber-existence is done, DotComGuy will decide he has to have something else in his life — DotComGal, maybe? But he has demonstrated that e-commerce is well enough developed in a large urban setting to make it possible to shop online for basic material wants and for all kinds of entertainment extras, as well.

Now comes the next step — carrying out deals online that once were restricted to signing your name on paper.

The federal government has joined 46 states in giving legal status to electronic signatures that may take the form of holding an individualized, signed card to your computer and entering a code name. As President Clinton was quoted as saying at a bill-signing ceremony, consumers can finalize mortgages this way, they can sign insurance contracts and they can open brokerage accounts.

None of this would matter quite so much if there were just a handful of DotComFolks, but a Harris poll early this year reportedly showed that more than 50 percent of American adults now use home computers, and a Scarborough report in June disclosed there are now six cities in which at least 69 percent of households boast one or more computers.

People in no other land are doing this quite as enthusiastically and as expertly as we are, and that's something we should be proud of. Laws of the e-signature variety are good; they facilitate. The occasional governmental urge to strictly control should be resisted. E-living will not necessarily be quality living for all, but computers are proving a capacity to enlarge and enrich us.