You're putting the finishing touches on a big presentation. show time is in two hours, and you still haven't received the new cost projections from the head of research. Sending an urgent email into the ether of the World Wide Wait isn't fast enough — the email will most likely get backlogged among the scores of other messages in the researcher's overstuffed mailbox. ICQ from Mirabilis Ltd. and Pager from ichat Inc. are two free programs that let you deliver an instant SOS. And unlike email, instant pagers offer the advantage of immediate feedback.
ICQ (for "I seek you") and Pager operate pretty much the same way. Download the software to your computer, and it sends out a signal each time you connect to the Internet, announcing to other users that you're online. Once you add the researcher's name to the address book, check to see whether she's logged onto the Net. Click on her name, and she gets a message asking whether she wants to talk. If the answer is yes, a split-screen window pops up. You "chat" by typing back and forth to each other: your comments appear in one window; the researcher's words stream into the other. If you need a quick response from the perpetual Net cruisers in your group, ICQ and Pager guarantee that you get it.
Coordinates: Mirabilis, http://www.mirabilis.com ; ichat, http://www.ichat.com
A version of this article appeared in the October/November 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.