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ONE HOT SPOT TO CHECK OUT

What would happen if someone decided to combine two of the latest cultural phenomena?

That's just what Scott Herman did when he combined a cafe with the Internet. The result was the Common Grounds Internet Cafe, a cozy coffee shop.

Located at 1420 Millersport Highway, just past the Marriott Hotel, the Internet Cafe has become a place to hang out, drink coffee and surf the Net.

When Herman opened the cafe more than a year ago, he wanted to offer the "digitally homeless" a place to learn and use computers.

"The Internet has become a way to break borders and let people say what they want," said Herman. "I wanted to expose people to that in a relaxed and non-threatening environment."

Herman didn't have a lot of models to work with. When he started out, there were only three computer cafes in the world. Now there are more then 400.

If you've never been on the Internet, don't let that stop you from checking out the Internet Cafe. The cafe offers training programs in a private back room. Once you've learned the tricks of the trade, you can move on to the main cafe.

At the counter, which is covered with a model of the inside of a computer, you can take your pick of delicious foods and coffees. Along with the standard bagels and muffins, you can also dig into a piece of Bill Gates Chocolate Cake with a cappuccino or latte.

Then pull up a seat at a computer and get ready to experience the Internet at 16 cents a minute or $7.50 for an hour. If it's e-mail you're interested in, the cafe can hook you up with your own address and you can pop in to check your e-mail as often as you want.

Herman says customers range in age from 8 to 80. If you're under 18, you need to have a parent come to sign an access usage form. Don't worry, you can send them home or to the training room after that.

If you'd like more information, you can find the cafe on the Internet (where else!) at www.cgicafe.com.

So if you're among the digitally homeless (or clueless!) or an Internet expert, check out Common Grounds Internet Cafe and prepare yourself to access the world.

Julie Pace is a freshman at Amherst High School.