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Realtimes at Ridgemont High

The high-tech boom offers graduates a chance to broadcast their lives over the Internet. That means anyone, anywhere, can tune in to their bright futures at any time. No pressure, though.

By Mary Spicuzza

DOESN'T IT just bring you back to your graduation?" the cheery Logitech representative chirps, wistfully looking out over the packed football field of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara.

I survey the pomp and glory of graduation night, complete with sophisticated teens clad in Britney Spears-inspired fashions and lost relatives scoping out seating arrangements with the help of multiple cellular phones. I nod in polite agreement.

But it's the flawlessly pretty table stocked with personal broadcasting systems created by SpotLife--one for each member of the graduating class--that snaps me out of my denial that things haven't changed since I graduated nearly a decade ago.

Last Friday night's oh-so-Silicon Valley graduation soiree was nothing like my Midwestern high school's ceremony. I mean, all I got with my high school diploma was a single long-stemmed rose. It's not like my classmates had to walk 10 miles through Arctic windstorms each day, but when we did finally get our walking papers none of us had ever heard of email or the Internet.

This brave new high-tech world may explain why graduating Wilcox senior Komal Kaura already has an impressive foundation in biotechnology, which she plans to pursue at Foothill College and UC-Davis. Her teachers Mary Pat Dowd and Ed Slate gush that Wilcox High already offers several courses in plant and animal biotech, meaning that Kaura and classmates were debating the ethics of sheep cloning and genetically designed children at an age that my classmates and I were threatening to sue the school for promising to fail us if we didn't dissect multiple frogs and sheep's eye balls. (And I wonder why I mysteriously lost that scholarship that was supposedly 'in the bag.')

When asked if she's going to spring for the Logitech camera, available starting at $80, to use with the SpotLight system, Kaura bobs her head as she breaks down the cash benefits.

"Yes! You can win, like, thousands of dollars," she says.

Not only can these young ones point, click and broadcast their lives over the Internet, chatting live to anyone anywhere in the world, two lucky grads will score $10,000 scholarships thanks to philanthropic local techies. Wilcox faculty and current students will vote on which grads have best captured their true-life experiences over the coming year.

Reality-based television shows like Survivor and Road Rules loom as obvious comparisons, but I automatically remember scenes from last year's teen gross-out hit, American Pie, featuring a sexy foreign exchange student, a teen boy desperate to de-virginize, and a hidden Internet camera. Then I realize how much richer I could be if I had been able to bring the camera along on my graduation night festivities to record the class valedictorian downing Old Milwaukee with a wine cooler chaser and two of my fellow Honor Society members too drunk to pry their rear-ends out of a tire swing. With the power of blackmail alone, these kids have a host of new opportunities ahead.

"The Class of 2000 is like no other before," Amit Goswamy, president and CEO of SpotLife, says. "By the time these students were 10 years old, over 65 million people had computers in their homes and by the time they reached high school, email was more popular than the telephone."

Meaning that a Wilcox grad can chat with mom and dad from the sand dunes of Tunisia or their dorm room several states away with the help of San Mateo-based SpotLife. Before I can list all of those long-distance friendships that could have been saved by SpotLife, a police officer approaches to remove me from the football field--apparently sent out by an administrator terrified I may be a sniper plotting to take out the Class of 2000, possibly with my camera. Then all of the relationships that have been saved by distance and time apart come to mind, and I hope these tech-savvy kiddies know when to turn the SpotLife off and stop sharing--especially at times when the grandparents may be watching.

A tiny toddler, Jonah Higgs, stumbles past and it's hard to imagine what he'll be getting with his diploma. I scurry to my car in the scorching heat, savoring the simplicity of that single long-stemmed red rose.

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From the June 22-28, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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