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Burgers, fries, a Coke and _ stock quotes _ now in the drive-through lane

January 4, 1997

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ People used to getting their burgers and fries on the quick can now hop on the Internet in a drive-through lane for the latest stock prices, forecasts and sports scores.

In a nation obsessed with convenience, with fast-food restaurants and banks offering drive-up windows from coast to coast, a small online service company is offering the ultimate for computer junkies.

The company based in Lewisburg, a town of 3,500, has placed a 15-inch Macintosh monitor inside the drive-through window in its office, a former fast-food restaurant. There is a keyboard and glide pad outside for drivers to use in their cars.

``People of all levels of expertise really seem to appreciate the chance to take a quick trip on the Internet from the convenience of their car,″ says Marta Lemley, director of operations for Hometown America Inc. ``Mostly they use it for accessing things like stock quotes or sports or the weather.″

Computer users can send e-mail and talk in chat rooms for free, but only for five minutes at a time if there is a long line.

``I suppose it’s taking the information highway to its ultimate conclusion,″ said Sara Fitzgerald, spokeswoman for Interactive Services Association, a trade association for the online and Internet industry in Silver Spring, Md.

Daryl Clemons of Lewisburg has used the drive-through twice, once with his nephew who looked up football and hockey scores.

``I use it for entertainment, to find out what bands are coming to the area or what bands are playing,″ Clemons said Thursday.

He also looked up soap opera plots, but quickly added, ``I did that for a friend.″

Clemons has a computer at home, but it is not hooked up to an online service. The drive-through has whetted his appetite to upgrade his home computer.

Ms. Fitzgerald said the drive-through might work for people who are in a rush, but could frustrate people wanting to browse a while.

``I wonder the extent to which you will have a meaningful exchange if cars are lined up behind you beeping to get through,″ she said.

The company is not worried about someone stealing the keyboard because Lewisburg is a small town about 75 miles southeast of Charleston and crime rates are generally low in West Virginia.

The company, founded in October 1995, moved into its office in August and set up the drive-through computer in late December as a promotion.

``We have to use that drive-through for something,″ Ms. Lemley said. ``We are a little on the eccentric side. We admit that.″

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