Are you bored with surfing the Internet on your tiny little personal computer screen? Well, now your television set can be turned into a gateway to cyberspace through the use of a 'set-top box'. A set-top box is an electronic gadget that links the Internet with your television. The design is user-friendly and caters to people with little or no computer knowledge. There are different brands of set-top boxes available on the market. However, they have similar features, which include an electronic mail system that supports voice and picture attachments. There is also an Internet picture phone that enables real-time voice and video communication. They also have the Internet browser which supports HTML and Java script, \t\tand RealNetworks RealAudio 5.0 for streaming audio \t\tas well as Microsoft Window applications. Set-top boxes are full of surprises and a perfect marriage between television and computer platforms. After connecting the gadget to your television set and telephone line, you can then practically do a zillion things. You can browse the Internet, send and read electronic mail, order view-on-demand video, shop online and play online games. As set-top boxes become more and more popular, future models are expected to have even more functions, including video conferencing. They were introduced in Hong Kong in August last year. The first set-top service provider, iCare, is a collaboration between Henderson Cyber and Town Gas. It caters to both narrow and broadband telecommunication lines, with the latter supporting picture-in-picture, multimedia and video-streamlining functions. iCare ( www.icare.com.hk ) offers a wealth of information ranging from infotainment, parenting, education, \thealth, beauty and cooking tips to medical and household knowledge. People who have downloaded Media Player software can tune into its online \t\tradio programmes. iCare is also developing an electronic payment system, which will help users to shop and pay their bills online. At present, the company is mainly targeting housewives who have little or no computer experience but are interested in surfing the Internet. But iCare hopes to expand its operations in the near future. However, there is a drawback in using a set-top box for Internet access. Compared with other handheld electronic devices such as palm pilots, mobile phones and notebook computers, it is confined to home use only. For instance, while you are on the move, you are unlikely to take along your television set to access the Internet. But for those who love to stay at home, being a couch potato will never be the same again with this new technology.