ATLANTA (AP) _ They sip coffee and talk about Java _ the new kind of computer programming language.

They learn about using ATM _ not cash machines, but Asynchronous Transfer Mode, a high-speed data relay technique.

There is much discussion of ``pipes and plumbing'' _ not for flow of water but for bigger and faster movement of data, by the hundreds of millions of bits per second.

The Networld+Interop conference and show this week is a virtual heaven for self-styled computer geeks _ more than 40,000 Internet and networking professionals and businesspeople are here for seminars taught by university professors, some 600 exhibits of the latest in computer technological products and for networking about, well, networking.

``A lot of companies use this venue as a kind of launching pad for new products and new technology,'' said Michael Simpson, marketing director for Novell Inc. ``And this is a great time to meet with an enormous amount of industry specialists.''

And behind all the technobabble about ethernet and packet-switching and routing domains is a peek at innovations _ from voice-retrieved e-mail, to combined video, voice and data, to computer accounts that require retina scans or other special security for access_ that may soon be in your workplace, where you shop or in your home.

``This is a place where you ... can see the future of our industry and what society will look like,'' said Edward Kozel, chief technical officer for Cisco Systems Inc. ``It is evolving very rapidly.''

The conferences, held each year in Atlanta and Las Vegas, Nev., and also in overseas locations, grew out of a small California meeting some 11 years ago among teachers, businesspeople and computer experts to discuss making computers better able to interact with each other and making better use of the Internet.

``The pace of this technology is so amazingly fast,'' said Liza Draper, a vice president of conference producer Softbank Forums. ``It's gone from crawling to supersonic flight ... a lot of stuff that used to be Sci-Fi is real.''

To the goals of using computer networking to do more, do it faster and do it more simply has been added do it more securely. As the use of computers and the Internet has grown, so has the importance of reliability and security.

So this conference is featuring a security symposium with discussions of encrypting data to prevent information thievery, built-in alerts to warn of unusual usage of a system, and access-control measures such as fingerprinting, retina scans and voice recognition to prevent hackers from breaking in for vandalism or spying.

There's also the latest in troubleshooting products and methods to keep systems up and running.

A volunteer all-star team of some three dozen experts from around the world run the InteropNet, a special ``monster network'' here that links vendors and their products to each other and the Internet, allowing participants to ``test-drive'' the new technologies on the exhibit hall floor.

As with most shows, there are freebies to lure participants to exhibits, such as free mouse pads, tote bags, T-shirts and caps, and such eye-catchers as a putting green, a baseball batting tee, a man dressed as a wizard, and a troupe of jugglers called ``The Flaming Idiots.'' In technotalk, ``flaming'' means expressing a strong, inflammatory opinion.

``There's a lot of spirit here,'' said Michael Goodman, the Networld+Interop general manager who's been attending conferences for 10 years. ``There's a drive for excellence, a passion for the techonology and what's hot.''

Also, he said, recalling scruffy networkers 10 years ago who are millionaires today, Goodman noted that with the fortunes that have been built as computer network use has spread also comes increased pressure to keep improving.

``It's moved from technology that people were sort of playing around with to now, major companies are betting an awful lot of their commerce on it,'' said William Johnson, network products vice president for Compaq Computer Corp., which recorded more than $18 billion in sales last year.