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Communications Canada, a Canadian government agency is developing Conversational Hypertext Access Technology (CHAT), a system to provide easy database access to people with little or no computer experience, using what are known as hypertext links. Instead of cryptic computer commands, users type questions in English.

Telnet: debra.doc.ca
Log in: chat

You choose one of the three databases now online, one on AIDS, and then ask questions in English.

Ask the AIDS database, "When was AIDS first discovered?" and it answers:

"The first case of AIDS in North America was diagnosed in 1979. Before that, it existed in Africa, probably beginning in the 1950's. AIDS was discovered in North America when a number of young men with a history of homosexuality developed a rare type of cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma."

Sometimes, you do have to rephrase your question. For example, when asked "What is the link between AIDS and drug use?" the computer responds:

"I know two things about drugs: the drugs that are used to treat people with AIDS, and the risks that drug users have in getting AIDS. Please ask about treatments or drug users."

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