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What do carrier pigeons and Microsoft have in common?

OK, Skinnyphiles, here's a quick history quiz for you.

OK, Skinnyphiles, here's a quick history quiz for you. 1) Where was the first shot of the U.S. Civil War fired? 2) Who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel? 3) Who's buried in Grant's Tomb? 4) What was the name of the precursor to the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank?

The first three aren't so difficult, but the fourth is a doozy. In fact, the answer has proven to be a real stickler for some Web surfers. I've been notified that several Web resource sites, including Yahoo and PC Computing, list the First Bank of the United States--dead since 1811--as a modern financial institution.

The bank, chartered by Congress and approved by President George Washington in 1791, was formed to handle the young nation's war debt. See, kids, Uncle Skinny can be fun and educational! The bank's charter ended 20 years later, which means the damn thing hasn't existed for 185 years. Even better: Some bonehead salesperson from Microsoft came along and tried to sell software to the bank's Webmaster.

"I just checked out your site--it is cool!" chirped the Microsoftie. "Isn't it amazing how the Internet is opening up new channels for delivery of banking services?"

Check for yourself. Isn't it amazing that anyone could visit the Web site in question and not realize that "Internet" was about as relevant to the bank as "LSD" or "trillion-dollar budget deficit"? Hey, someone send a carrier pigeon to Redmond to explain that you can't run Internet Explorer if the telegraph hasn't even been invented.

And you can't mention inventions without thinking of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the place where the Bomb was born. (Yes, their URL really does start with "xxx.") Seems that a flashy new piece of browser-enhancing software from Peak Technologies called Net.Jet has ticked off the network tweakers at a few Web sites, including the lab rats in question.

According to Peak's Web site, Net.Jet speeds up your browser by caching the links to each Web page you visit. Great for you, dear user, but not so great for the Web server at the other end as it tries frantically to dish out the requests for pages. Not known for having long fuses, the nuclear nerds of Los Alamos are treating Net.Jet users like a hot lump of plutonium by allegedly locking them out of their site. The Internet Movie Database has done the same. The answers to the first three questions, by the way, are 1) Fort Sumter; 2) Aaron Burr; and as for number three, I'm not telling unless you bomb my in-box with juicy rumors.