There are some techno prophets who predict a future in which computers converge with television, with information services and entertainment programmes becoming available through the same screen. This would mean that the summer holiday couch potatoes of the future could flick between scheduled television broadcasts and whatever they wanted to call up from the Internet, the two sources being channelled through the same box.
At present, trying to get moving pictures on the Internet is like trying to push porridge down a straw, with a postage-stamp sized three-minute video clip taking up to half an hour to download. But, if you have the patience to persevere, you can see glimpses of how the Internet might one day be used as an additional channel by television companies. Cable news channel CNN has an Internet site that illustrates its written news service with short video-clips taken from its television broadcasts. And the pop music channel MTV also has an Internet site which allows you to download pop videos.
But if you want to see where television has already found a place on the Internet, you should look to the thousands of sites that have been set up as on-line shrines to individual programmes or performers. For example, Coronation Street has a particularly dedicated following, with a number of Internet sites catering for "Corrie" fans.
There is an Official Coronation Street site, run by the show's producers, Granada, which has a copious archive documenting the series since its launch in 1960. For instance, in the Coronation Street Encyclopedia, you can look up "H is for Betty Turpin's Hot Pot" and get the recipe for Weatherfield's most famous dish, served in the Rover's Return since 1973.
If you want even more obscure Coronation Street detail, then take a look at Who's Who in Coronation Street, which holds a cross-referenced guide to every character who has ever walked its cobblestones, with a corresponding list of actors and actresses.
This mania for gathering facts about a favourite programme can be seen in the plethora of television sites, dedicated to series such as Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Absolutely Fabulous and Monty Python's Flying Circus. Do you remember wide-boy Arthur Daley and the Minder comedy-crime series? Someone does all too well, as a site devoted to the programme contains details of every one of the 108 episodes, screened between 1979 and 1994. These include such memorably-titled episodes as 'A Fridge Too Far' and 'It's a Sorry Lorry, Morrie'.
Attention to detail on an even more massive scale is apparent in the Internet Movie Database. This must be the ultimate in argument-settling technology, with records of almost every film ever released. You can search the contents of the database by way of film title, actors and actresses, characters, quotes and plots, allowing you to find out who exactly was in any particular film and when it was produced. If you want even greater levels of movie fandom, there are more than 1,500 individual film-star Internet sites, containing pictures, biographies and masses of information.
But, as they say, back to the future. While many of these fan-club sites are produced by star-struck amateurs, there is a significant colonisation of the Internet by the big-buck Hollywood film studios. When major films are released, it's becoming increasingly common for companies to launch lavish promotional Internet sites, with pictures, preview clips, interviews and a general collection of merchandising and hype - for an example, take a look at Warner Brothers' site. Packed with eye-catching graphics and interactive buttons, these blur the boundaries between the once text-based Internet and the visual worlds of television, film and video games.
When the cinema was first developed a century ago, scientists were the pioneers, before being pushed aside by the entertainment moguls. The information superhighway, once the talk of academics, might also be on course for a diversion via Hollywood.
The Official Coronation Street site: http:www.coronationstreet.co.ukindex.html
Who's Who in Coronation Street: http:www.shef.ac.ukgg1jgastreet
Internet Movie Database: http:uk.imdb.com
Actors and actresses sites: http:www.yahoo.comEntertainmentMovies_and_FilmsAct rs_and-ActressesWar ner Brothers: http:www.movies.warnerbros.com