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Funding techie kids

Here's $27 million. Use it to establish a center that focuses on children and technology.

That's essentially what MIT's famous Media Lab was told by Isao Okawa, chairman of the Japanese CSK Corp. and Sega Enterprises Ltd. The endowment is one of the largest in MIT's 137-year history.

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"Children are leading the way in creating the information society," says Mr. Okawa. "This new center grows out of my commitment to help current and future children around the world." The Okawa Center for Future Children, scheduled to open before 2003, will be an expansion of MIT's Media Lab, officials said. Researchers will work closely with children in diverse cultural settings, from urban neighborhoods to rural schoolhouses in the developing world.

The announcement came in the middle of the week-long Junior Summit '98, designed to promote international dialogue and advance technology among the world's children. The first Junior Summit was the idea of Okawa, who launched a similar, but smaller-scale, project in 1995 in Tokyo.

Changing the face of time

And you thought converting miles into kilometers was tough.

Participants in last week's Junior Summit '98 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were the first to test out a whole new concept of measuring time in the cyberworld: Swatch Internet Time.

"Cyberspace has no seasons and no night and day," says Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Lab at MIT in Cambridge. "Internet Time is absolute time for everybody. Internet Time is not geopolitical. It is global. In the future, for many people, real time will be Internet Time."

Swatch Internet Time represents a completely new global concept where there are no time zones. Swatch has divided up the virtual and real day into 1000 "Beats." Each Swatch Beat is equivalent to 1 minute 26.4 seconds.

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How does Internet Time work? A day in Internet Time begins 000 Swatch Beats - or midnight CET (Central Europe Time). That means that 12 noon in the old system is the equivalent of 500 Swatch Beats.

Summit-goers incorporated the Internet Time concept into their scheduling for the week and will continue to use their watches and Internet Time to launch their own discussions after the summit is over.

For the participants, who live in virtually every time zone in the world, Internet Time simplifies the process of scheduling online chats with people across the globe. For new friends from China, India, or the United States, Internet Time is the same for everyone.

Swatch, which sponsored the conference, will begin promoting and selling Swatch Beat watches with Internet Time in early January. The Swiss-based company is hoping that the watch will have broad appeal to young Internet users, who, they feel, will have an open mind about a new concept of measuring time.

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