Tom Shepherd, a sixth form college student in Brighton (and Web designer) talks to Chris Abbott.
Which information technology product - software or hardware - has made all the difference?
It would have to be Netscape Navigator.
Navigator was one of the first programs available that let you look at World Wide Web pages. I can't explain how revolutionary it was two years ago to see a page of text and pictures from a computer in America just appear in the Netscape window on my screen. The magnitude of the whole thing clicked straight away.
What do you like or dislike about it?
One of the best things about Navigator is that it has always been free, and you just download it straight to your computer rather than go to a computer shop to buy it. What's incredible is that it isn't a cheap studenty-type creation anymore - there are now hundreds of programmers working on the next versions. Everyone knows that this kind of software is going to be worth billions in a few years' time; so Netscape is chucking in millions of pounds to develop it: and we don't have to pay a penny!
When did you start using it?
I still remember the first time I used it back in late 1994. I didn't know much about the Net at all, but I'd got a modem for my birthday, and I was paying to connect up to the Net myself.
Who decided to buy it and were you involved in the choice?
I didn't have to buy it (because it was free of charge) and it was all my choice.
How does it compare with other ways of tackling the same tasks?
There's really only recently been any competition to Navigator, now Microsoft's involved too. It's staggering really that Microsoft's Web browser is about neck and neck with Netscape in what they are capable of doing: and Microsoft started over a year behind Netscape. I've got Microsoft's browser on my machine as well, and I think it is a bit faster than the current version of Navigator, but I feel drawn towards Navigator because I've used it for so long and it's so familiar to me. Besides, the next version of Navigator will be faster and have more featuresIand it'll go on like that. What is good is that both programs support the same parts of HTML - so if I make a Web site that looks good through Navigator, it also looks good through Microsoft's browser.
How do you think it could be improved?
The pace of development for Navigator is so fast that anything I suggest is probably already in the pipeline! It's being improved all the time.
If you had more funding, what would you invest in?
If I had more money to chuck around, then I guess I'd buy a faster computer, because pretty soon I won't be able to run the new versions, and that means I wouldn't get a look-in on all the exciting developments like multimedia-enriched Web pages, and all these little Java programs which can now do all sorts of clever things.
* Netscape Navigator (latest is version 3), Netscape Communications Corporation. Free for home and educational use. Pounds 40 for businesses.