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Home Internet link ''most vital''

Britons judge the computer a more vital piece of household equipment than the cooker, TV or fridge, according to a report out today.

Given the choice, 74% of people could happily live without a cooker for a week, but nearly 50% could not exist without a computer and Internet connection.

A study by Yahoo, to mark its 10th anniversary, found that over the past 10 years people's perceptions of what they considered a "life essential" has drastically changed.

Technology is no longer seen as just gadgetry - but rather as a critical, essential extension of daily life, the report suggested.

Britons would keep their PC ahead of their cooker, TV and even their mobile, the survey showed. Around 72% were willing to do without the TV, 74% the cooker, 67% the fridge, and almost 60% would give up their mobile phone.

Only 51% would be willing to give up their PC.

The clamour for "real time" communication has made the computer more essential than the cooker, the report claimed. In 1995, only 5% used SMS text services and just 8% used email.

Today, more than 55% use both text messaging (59%) and email (56%). The most instantaneous form of online communication - instant messaging is used by 69% of respondents, compared with only 2% 10 years ago.

By comparison, regular use of the post has gone down from 38% in 1995 to 31% in 2005. The Internet has turned into an essential life tool that used for everything from holidays to cars.

Only five years ago, fewer than 31% searched online for holidays, 28% for cars, 30% for financial information, 38% for jobs and 26% for property.

Today, these figures have doubled; 69% for holidays, 72% for cars, 70% for financial information, 63% for jobs and 74% for property.

Simon Hinde, editor-in-chief at Yahoo, said: "1995 was the era of Chris Evans, Oasis V Blur, Take That and The Word, and we've covered it all.

"However, the changes since Yahoo first started haven't only been cultural. "Today computer ownership is almost ubiquitous and internet use an intrinsic part of everyday life. "As our research shows, people don't feel that they are part of the wider world unless they have the ability to communicate and access information in real time.

"This is reflected in the fact that we are now the first port of call for millions of Britons who want to do everything from registering for a free email address to checking the latest share prices online."

The Yahoo report was based on a survey of 1,000 UK adults between February 17 and 24.

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