Two years ago, Dan Stark got an idea to put the Internet in a vending machine. Customers could insert a dollar bill and have instant access to the World Wide Web at the mall, in a coffee shop, or anywhere they wanted to surf the Internet.
Now Stark's one-man company, GraceTime Systems in Olathe, is ready to begin placing its "Internet Substations" around the Kansas City area.
"We are targeting department stores, malls, cafes, coffee houses," Stark said, "places where people have time on their hands and want to sit down and relax for a minute."
Stark is building the Internet stations himself in his Olathe home, but is teaming up with other businesses to write the software for the kiosks. The kiosks will automatically E-mail Stark's home computer with inventory information at the end of each day.
Stark hopes to distribute 25 substations at locations in Overland Park and Olathe in the near future, and expects to have 200 around the area within the next six months.
The machines will accept 1, 5, 10 and 20-dollar bills, electronic coupons, and credit cards. Users will pay $1 for five minutes or $5 for 25 minutes.
Stark hopes he has a hit on his hands. An answering machine message on his business telephone explains why: "They are stand-alone kiosks that can make you lots of money." For more information, surf to the GraceTime Systems Web site at www.gracetime.com.
The Internet is not for everyone, as members of the Silicon Prairie Technology Association will find out next month, when the association sponsors author Clifford Stoll for a speech entitled, "An Insider's View of the Information Highway."
In the Oct. 7 presentation, the author of "Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway," will challenge the claim that technology is entirely good.
Stoll will question the world's infatuation with the Internet and discuss his concerns about what computers are doing to education and libraries. SPTA President Susan Catts called the author "very controversial."
Stoll gained notoriety in 1989 when he uncovered the "Hanover Hacker," a West German spy ring that was selling computer secrets to the KGB. He was featured in the New York Times and later wrote a book about the experience called "The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage."
Stoll's Kansas City speech, co-sponsored by Black & Veatch, Levi Ray & Shoup Inc. and CAM-1, is from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Oct. 7, and will be preceded by a 7:30 a.m. breakfast. Cost to SPTA members is $100, to non-members it is $150.
Call Suzanne King with tips for Connected at 421-5900.