- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Can computer technology help morale during the war on terrorism? Hewlett-Packard is demonstrating that it can. At the Pentagon on Sept. 6, an interactive video and computer kiosk celebrating the "Give Thanks America" initiative by HP will be dedicated and become a permanent part of the nation's tribute to post-September 11 responses.
Shortly after the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, a team at what was then Compaq Computer Corp., now HP, came up with the idea of using its computer technology and video e-mail expertise to help Americans send messages of support to those on active duty around the world.
With the anthrax scare slowing or curtailing delivery of postal mail to the troops, the system was a blessing for families and military personnel, each of whom has a service-specific e-mail address and access to the Internet at their duty stations.
There were, of course, technical considerations: Traditional video e-mails could be too bulky for some e-mail systems to handle. According to A.J. Dennis, a director at HP, the solution was to use technology already on hand in most military computers: Microsoft Windows and the Windows Media Player.
When recorded, messages are compressed into the WMA (Windows Media Archive) format and stored on HP servers. An e-mail "ticket" is sent to both the creator of the message and the intended recipient. The message is streamed over the Internet "on demand," saving storage on local computers and using available network capacity in the best manner.
The "Give Thanks America" program caught on quickly with military families and Americans of every stripe, attracting celebrities from entertainment, sports and public life. Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal, actress Bo Derek and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went before the cameras and computers to record messages of good will and encourage the country to do the same.
On July Fourth at Major League Baseball stadiums around the country, fans and players experienced the ease of recording an e-mail video message using HP's Presario computers and customized software. With the cooperation of the Pentagon, those messages went to Bosnia, Germany, Afghanistan and other outposts.
Then, the other side kicked in with active-duty soldiers sending recorded messages back to their families.
One GI fighting the war against terrorism saw his new baby for the first time on an e-mail video, courtesy of "Give Thanks America."
Earlier this month, at the Major League Soccer All-Star Game at RFK Stadium, players and fans again sent messages through Give Thanks America to those in harm's way. In return, they saw messages from troops overseas who expressed their appreciation for the goodwill messages.
One wife and mother summed up what these messages mean to those in uniform overseas and their families. Nicole Brown of Springfield, whose husband, Pat, is in the Air Force, participated in the all-star game military celebration with her children.
"Being able to see us for a couple of minutes and see us talk and almost get a real-time sense and give a message to him of how we feel, and how much we love him and how proud we are," she said. "To put our voice together and have him see the kids you can't capture that in a text message. It's an incredible service that Give Thanks America gives to us."

Write to: Mark Kellner, c/o The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Send e-mail to [email protected], or visit his Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back to Mark live every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. EDT on www.adrenalineradio.com.

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