The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Junior and Senior High School students of Davis, Calif. Many of these students are engaged in creating Internet Web pages, and they are making money for their efforts.
Davis is home to the University of California at Davis. The city is full of bicycles, education, and computer technology and offers an ideal environment for developing the next generation of technological leaders.
This pleasant college town is another cul-de-sac on the information highway that is tucked away behind a router. The Davis Community Network (DCN),
The ages of these Web wizards range from 13 to more than 18 years. One, who is too young to drive, has equipped his bicycle with a cellular phone. Because of their age, many bill themselves as consultants. This allows them to circumvent the archaic labor laws associated with employing children under age 16. In this situation, the labor laws have not kept pace with the advancements in technology. Writing HTML code for Web pages does not require a sweat-shop environment for these young workers. Working as consultants allows them to be paid for their efforts.
These youthful entrepreneurs command fees as high as $1,000 to set up a Web page. Their customers include various departments at UC Davis and businesses located on the bustling Davis Virtual Market (DVM) section of DCN. DVM is a very busy area, sustaining 308,454 hits last June.
Graham J.M. Freeman, a senior at Davis High School, develops Web pages and volunteers as a member of the DCN Web team. He learned to write Pascal code at Davis High School under the tutelage of computer teacher Janet Meizel. When the Internet explosion came along, he taught himself to write HyperText Markup Language (HTML) code. These ASCII instructions are used by Web browsers for displaying pages.
In the same fashion as other inquisitive programmers, he obtained and dissected existing HTML files. "If I see something I like, I view the source and try to determine how I can adapt that code without actually copying it," said Freeman.
For Freeman, content takes precedence over graphics. His pages are designed to be functional with all the popular browsers and platforms. The pages must be pleasing under Netscape, Explorer and Mosaic. Both Windows 3.x and Windows 95 platforms are used to test newly developed pages. Users of the text-only Lynx browser are also accommodated by Freeman's pages. He said, "I don't really rely too much on graphics. Eye candy has its place, but I personally don't want it."
Freeman noted that many personal Web pages are lacking in content, even his own. "I have a cat. I breathe," he joked. However, content was uppermost in his mind when he created a Web page for his mother's political campaign. During the campaign, her Web page received more than 30 hits per day. He noted this was low compared to commercial pages, but good for a local page.
In keeping with his preference for content, Freeman avoids gizmos and gadgets such as counters and animation. "Unobtrusive animations don't bother me. The ones that do bother me are those that keep reloading. The stop light goes on and off constantly," he said.
Counters are devices that keep track of the number of visitors to a given page. Counter programs usually reside on a remote server elsewhere on the Internet. When a user visits a counter-controlled page, a signal is sent to the counter server. The page count is updated, and a graphics image of an odometer showing the number of hits is sent back to the visited page and displayed. This lag time is often the reason the counter doesn't display until long after the page