Fortune'sWhitford Discovers Living Online is a Survival of the Fittest

May 5, 1998

To test how deeply the Internet has taken hold in daily life, FORTUNE senior writer David Whitford set up camp in a cottage on Martha's Vineyard last January resolved to rely solely on cyberspace for food, entertainment and intellectual stimulation. His quest for online food delivery and other cyber trials and tribulations appear in the May 25 issue of FORTUNE.

"I was just trying to live my life: stay connected to family, friends, and colleagues, get my work done, and eat three squares a day. Ordinary stuff, were it not for the peculiar terms of the experiment," reports Whitford. "As soon as I arrived on Martha's Vineyard, I logged in to Cybermeals, only to find that none of the island's takeout restaurants were online. Tried E-Meals, same story. Spent the next couple of hours stuffing the overnight delivery pipeline. Ordered online beer, Cokes, frozen pizza, frozen ribs, a frozen Philly cheese steak gift pack for two, and one doughnut, kosher, extra large," Whitford writes.

According to researchers at Cyber Dialogue, there are more than 40 million U.S. adults who are active Internet users today. In 1997 alone, 11.2 million Americans bought $3.2 billion worth of merchandise on the Web.

After going without food for two days and receiving only one return business E-mail, Whitford lamented about his plight. "Snail's-pace phone connections, unnavigable Websites, people who don't respond to E-mail, all of that and more is seriously starting to tick me off. Has technology brought us this far just to remind us what it's like to struggle for every meal?"Whitford's story can be found online at http://fortune.com and on newsstands beginning May 11.

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