We've got the Wonder Woman decal shirts, tiny string backpacks, and proto-millenial drugs. So it was only a matter of time before someone opened Minneapolis's first cyber cafe--that west-coast-created crossroads for caffeine achievers and Internet zombies.
Located at the corner of Lake and Lyndale, the deplorably named CyberX (indeed, Douglas Coupland must be punished) and its young proprietors Mischa Beitz and Brian Hagerty began vending zeitgeist by the cup and computer-hour a month ago. A precise inventory of CyberX's computer holdings would only appeal to the gearheads among us, but needless to say, the venue's five PCs, networked to a server in the basement, support a zippy Internet connection--important for users swilling down double espressos. But while the barristas can froth a cappucino with the left hand and help you reinstall Netscape 1.2 with the right, the application configurations (which run off Windows 95, this decade's greatest hype yet), are less accessible than need be, and a revamping of the CyberX home page (http://www.cyberx.com)--a half-assed effort by any standards--would certainly be in order. Though by then, the great trial rental rate (a half-hour free with a cuppa' joe) will probably have ballooned to the standard $7.00/hour.
It's a better price than Kinko's, as Mischa notes, and the blue tables and Clash soundtrack do make for better ambiance. But will netnerds leave their college labs and basement consoles? Who's going to make up the clientele of CyberX? Will they have the looks of William Gibson and the charm of Bill Gates? On a recent visit, we overheard the fellow at the adjacent table, studying Chinese after surfing UFO websites, tossing off the best conversation-starter since what's your sign? "Have you read any of Noam Chomsky's work?" he asks a scrawny acquaintance in a tie-dye and overalls. Overalls, apparently, is writing a futuristic novel--around 20 pages finished so far, every page a separate chapter. "I have a very short attention span," he explains. That's okay kid, you're home: Just drink that cap, click your mouse on the boldfaced text, and wait for the picture to change.
More questions: Why is the regular coffee so watery? And what of the grand epistolary tradition of the cafe--rambling letters composed in one's sloppiest script, with a conspicuous coffee ring embossed as a watermark? If Marty and Chad--both decked out in fishing hats, composing fan email to Nova Mobster and ex-Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart--are any indication, cyberspace makes a young punk prolix. The note, reproduced in full: "Hello Grant and Tom. Greetings from Marty and Chad. We're sipping coffee and trying to contact you two. I miss you suckers."
Hey, Grant misses you suckers too. CyberX might sample the tagline Reach out and touch someone for their next ad campaign. Check 'em out now; there's no telling how long they'll be around. But who knows? Those little backpacks don't seem to be going anywhere.
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