What's in it for you

The Multimedia Family A4 publication available free from PIN, PO Box 1577, London W7 3ZT; e-mail: pinlift@aol.com.

Mother-of-three, Julie Harvey enjoyed her job in the personnel department of her local supermarket. The children were doing well at school and her husband Peter was making a decent living working for an electronics company. Then, without warning, redundancy shattered their cosy world.

But unknown to Julie, there was a small businessman lurking behind her humble husband. Using his meagre pay-off, Peter promptly set himself up in business and barged rudely into the world of computers and information technology. And, with the recent addition of a sparkling new multimedia computer to the household, the whole family has been forced to get to grips with the realities of the computer age.

So excited were the Harveys about their conversion that they agreed to star in the latest publication from the Parents Information Network, the independent body committed to making technology more understandable and accessible for parents and teachers.

In the 12-page leaflet, the Harveys are depicted as "the multimedia family". They tell how, prior to Peter's redundancy, they were happy to be technologically disenfranchised.

"Most people in the office use computers, but for a long time I was happier to keep well away from them," recalls Julie.

"Peter had only flirted briefly with them during his time at work and the children were content with their 10 minutes at school."

The Multimedia Family, the first in what will be a long-running series, is written in the style of a soap opera and uses photos and easy-to-read text to describe how members of the family integrate computers into their lives.

Its colourful pages feature home and school links, e-mail and the Internet, and describe how Julie went from being "pretty anxious when this 'thing' arrived in the house", to using it for spreadsheets and helping the children with their homework.

"We want it to show how computers can make a positive difference to the lives of ordinary people," says Jacquie Disney, who wrote the leaflet. "It's all very well to talk about the information society, but people need to recognise what's in it for them, otherwise many will remain fearful, alienated or disinclined to participate."

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