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Locked up in Cyberspace

Amidst ringing applause Bian Jing and Zhao Bin walked out of their separate glass enclosures at the Beijing Cybermart Shopping Mall, having successfully completed the Second National Network Survival Test, titled "The 100-hour Wireless Network Life Challenge," which lasted from October 11 to October 15.

Bian, 20, a student in Beijing and Zhao, 26, an IT engineer, spent 100 hours in their glass enclosures with nothing more than a PC notebook connected to the Internet and 3,000 yuan (US$360) in electronic currency.


The event faced them with five challenges: they had to survive, entertain themselves, study, communicate and conduct their business transactions through the Internet.


The two were selected for the event from 5,000 candidates through a series of physiological and psychological tests.


Beijing Cybermart Shopping Mall came alive on October 11 when the contest was set to begin.


People started to gather at the Mall in the morning, eager to see how the two lucky participants would manage on their first day behind the glass.


Some sat in front of notebooks chatting with the two participants in the glass enclosures via OICQ and some gathered around outside, where all the activities of the participants could be watched, except for their occasional forays into a small washroom.


The glass enclosures were simple and neat, containing only a bottle of drinking water, a single bed without bedclothes and a chair and a desk with a PC notebook on it.


At 12:02 pm, Zhao Bin ordered his first meal via Internet, a bowl of instant noodles and a bottle of juice.


Two minutes later, a KFC fast food outlet delivered an order to Bian Jing's enclosure. In the afternoon, crowds of people watched as various daily necessities, such as bedding, toothbrushes and towels were delivered, making the enclosures a little more like home.


Bian afterwards said that buying food was the most difficult thing, because most of the stores wanted cash up front and didn't take well to the idea of being paid via the Internet.


"Other trade on the Internet was generally easier and more successful," Bian said.


One of the middle-aged viewers said that he could see that this way of life is acceptable and inspiring, especially for young people.


Huang Junjie, one of the organizers of the test, said that he hoped "The 100-hour Wireless Network Life Challenge" would let Chinese people see the role of the Internet in people's lives today, and help them understand how e-commerce works and the ways in which the Internet can be used to enrich life.


Different from the First Network Survival Test held in 1999, the Second Test focused more on how the Internet enhances modern life and makes life more simple and interesting, he said.


(China Daily October 17, 2003)



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