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A suburban 11-year-old, Web surfing in his room with his entry-level PC, consults his screensaver and discovers intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. A Spielberg scenario if ever there was one. But an ambitious, acronym-intensive project called SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) does indeed plan to distribute data from the world's largest radio telescope to hundreds of thousands of domestic computers for analysis. Radio signals from the dish in Puerto Rico will be farmed out over the Net so that the spare capacity on home machines can be used to sift through them. Screen-saver technology will download data, process and return it, displaying the results on the home monitor. Those wanting to help with software trials before the official launch next year are invited to mail the site now.

äda 'web

This busy showcase for Web-specific art comes from the production wing for Digital City, the US "locally focused" online network. Those with fast enough modems can enjoy a flower-powered meditation on "Love" by the Belgian Group Z, whose romantic imagery is spiked with contributions from De Sade, and "Stir Fry", a travel diary from the video curator of the New York Museum of Modern Art as she combs China in search of contemporary multimedia work. Wittiest may be Maciej Wisniewski's "Jackpot", a one-armed-bandit-style browser which downloads three sites at random and exhibits them in slot-machine format. The site is named after Byron's daughter, Lady Ada Augusta Lovelace, who invented the first "software" for Charles Babbage's 19th-century ur-computer, the Difference Engine.

Smash Flops: The Pete Atkin Home Page

"Low-down yet highbrow sounds" was how Clive James described his early Seventies songwriting collaboration with the singer and musician Pete Atkin. Fusing Footlights satire and Broadway wit with jazz, folk and a metaphysical poet or two, their six (out-of-print) albums are celebrated here with interviews, soundclips and a plan to hyperlink every Jamesian conceit. At their best, the culpably literate duo evoked lost love, beautiful strangers and a unique sense of reverie:

And still his dreaming eyes are full of sails/ The tree-house leaves the peach-tree like a bird/ In time the swelling bark takes in the nails/ Of those adventures nothing more is heard.

Thanks partly to this excellent site, more will be heard at Atkin's gigs next month in London and Winchester.

Bill Pannifer

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