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June 11, 1995

Somerset baby finds a
home on the Internet

By Timothy C. Barmann

Some people just can't wait to show off their baby pictures.

And James and Margaret Burke of Somerset, Mass., didn't.

The couple made a "home page" on the Internet for their yet-to-be-born daughter, whom they had already named Kit (a nickname for Katherine). The page is complete with ultrasound images of the fetus made during various stages of Margaret's pregnancy.

"Kit's Page" is one of countless home pages which live on part of the Internet known as the World Wide Web. The Burkes and dozens of other area residents are part of the latest on-line trend of publishing personal home pages.

A home page, accessible worldwide to anyone with the right Internet connection, is an electronic front door to your own little corner of cyberspace.

They are called pages because they resemble magazine pages, which can have text, headlines and pictures. But Web pages can also play sounds and display video clips. And what makes them so powerful is what's called hypertext - their ability to "link" to other Web pages and Internet sites simply by clicking on a highlighted word or picture.

James Burke said that making a home page for their unborn daughter was a natural extension of both his and his wife's profession: They both are software developers for the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. And they both had home pages of their own.

"Kit's Page" started with their idea to make a general home page for kids. Then Margaret came up with the theme.

"Hi! My name is Katherine Moira Burke, but you can call me 'Kit,' " says the first sentence on the page, which debuted on the Web in February when Margaret was seven months pregnant.

"I haven't been born yet, but my parents decided that it's never too early to have your own Web page, so this is mine."

The page has several sections that allow visitors to interact, including a contest to guess the baby's birth date, weight, position and other circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and birth. Among the questions: "Number of people who touch mom's stomach uninvited by April 8" - the baby's due date.

(Answer: "Maggie was ever vigilant in protecting her stomach's privacy, but four people slipped through her defenses," James said.)

Another section of the page lets visitors help create a bedtime story for Kit by adding their own part to a story already begun. "Please keep your submission pleasant and your language clean," they ask.

The page also contains links to other Web pages which feature babies, fetuses and parents-to-be, as well as pointers to information on the Internet about pregnancy and child-rearing.

4,000 'hits'

"Kit's Page" has been well-read. There have been about 4,000 "hits," or times people have connected to the page, from computers as far away as New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa.

James said he didn't think twice about allowing the world to see images that many would consider private.

"I guess it's just an extreme version of parents showing their baby pictures to everybody - we just started a little early."

Incidentally, nobody won the birthday contest. Kit was born two weeks early, on March 25. James said he and Margaret are working on updating Kit's page with some new pictures - these will be post-birth.

You can check out the page by pointing your Web browser to http://ophelia.cogsci.umassd.edu/KitWebPage/KitsPage.html

Computer calendar

June 17 - Intelecom Data Systems, an East Greenwich-based Internet access provider, is having an open house at their new office, 5835 Post Rd., Suite 214, East Greenwich, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call IDS at 885-6855 for more information and directions.

Timothy C. Barmann is a Journal-Bulletin staff photographer. His column runs every other Sunday on the Online page. Comments about this column or suggestions for future topics can be sent to him via e-mail at tim@cybertalk.com.