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Home economics: If Emily Dickinson had a PC ...

Once I had an old computer that didn't do much except let me type without needing white-out. But I liked it. When the old computer got too old and broke down, I was sad because it was past fixing, but glad because it meant getting a new computer.

The New Computer is faster, smarter, and has more memory than the entire population of Ohio. It has something called an icon, a little "e" that, when clicked upon, sends a limo to my door (metaphorically speaking) - and whoosh! I'm on the information Super Highway.

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Now I'd heard talk about this so-called road to everywhere, but I didn't really know what they were talking about. And - yes, yes, yes - they are talking about on-line libraries, magazines, and newspapers, more knowledge than you can possibly fit into one tiny mind. Believe me, I've tried. But that's not what they're really talking about. It turns out that the Internet is really about shopping.

In the serene safety of your home, you can acquire so much stuff you'll need a new home to put it in. (You can store files in a computer, but not sweaters.) No more being left on hold, ordering out of catalogs. No more waiting in long lines, or driving around looking for a parking space. No more human contact at all! Just pure, simple purchasing power. Books and toys and jewelry and CDs, and anything, everything - chocolate even.

There's a Web site for Christmas trees. They'll deliver it to your home, in a box, just click on the order site. I think it costs extra to have it delivered already decorated.

These days I do a lot of window shopping, thanks to Windows 98, but I've always been more of a browser than a buyer. Only now I have a browser to go browsing with.

I hate to admit it, but I still sort of miss my old computer. Call me old fashioned, but I guess I'm just a twentieth century girl. Life was simpler when the most exciting thing I could do with my computer was create a macro - which I must admit, I never really learned how to do. (What is a macro, anyway?).

I still do my banking on line, but that's been so souped up and upgraded that any day now I expect to see 20-dollar bills come flying out of my screen, when I need to make a cash withdrawal.

I just wish Emily Dickinson were alive today. She could still stay home, but she could shop till she dropped. Not that I'd want her to drop. And think of the interesting poems she'd be writing. "Hope is the thing with feathers ... and a Web site."

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* Madora McKenzie Kibbe, who plans to do all her Christmas shopping online, lives in Bronxville, N.Y.

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