What is the Internet? The question is actually difficult to answer, because the answer is continually changing with time. About a decade ago, the Internet would have been, "All networks, using the IP protocol, that collaborate to form a seamless network for their collective users". But more recently the Internet itself consists of thousands of independent networks at academic institutions, military installations, government agencies, commercial enterprises, and other organizations. (Long, 197) When one gets on the Internet they are exposed to everything the Internet can give them. They can chat with people from all over the world, view the thousands of files, and send electronic mail.

The possibilities of the Internet are endless. The Internet was first started as a U.S. Defense Department network called the ARPAnet. The ARPAnet was an experimental network designed to support military research. In particular, research about how to build networks that could withstand partial outages and still function.

Say in a nuclear war, if one part of the network was to be disabled, the network would still be operational. (Krol, 11) To send a message across the ARPAnet, a computer only had to put its data in an envelope, called an Internet Protocol packet or IP, and address the packets correctly. The communicating computers -not the network itself-were also given the responsibility to ensure that the communication was accomplished. The philosophy was that every computer on the network could talk, as a peer, with any other computer.

(Krol, 11) In 1971, the ARPAnet included more than 20 sites. Ten years later in 1981, more than 200 sites were linked. (Krol 11) After a couple of years passed, ARPAnet had grown so much that they needed to make rules to govern the ever-growing network. The rules were called the standard protocol, and would allow communication between dissimilar computers and networks. As time went on the networks gradually adapted to each other and fused together to form the Internet. And because of this the ARPAnet was no longer needed, and ceased to exist.

(Long, 198) How does the Internet work? The Internet is built around the concept of "layers of service". This level consists of wires and hardware, and not always very good wires. Then you add a layer of basic software to shield yourself from the problems of hardware. You add, yet, another layer of software to give the basic software some desirable features. You continue to add functionality and smarts to the network, one layer at a time, until you have something that is useful.

(Krol, 19 The very basics of transferring data is like that of a Postal Service analogy. What you want to send is mixed together with everyone else's "stuff", transferred to another Post Office, and sorted out again. When sending data it cannot be automatically sent to the reciever. In following the Postal Service analogy, when sending a letter it is cannot be sent directly to the addressee. It must go through several sub-stations, each time getting closer to its destination.

That is, each sub-station only needs to know what connections are available, and what is the best next sub-station to get the letter closer to its destination. Similarly, with the Internet, a router looks at where your data is going and chooses the next best "sub-station" until it has reached its end. (Krol, 20) When transferring data or information, you can't just send the data itself and expect delivery. You must also put the information into a packet and address the packet.

The Internet Protocol takes care of the addressing, or making sure that the routers know what to do with your data when it arrives. Some of the address information goes at the beginning of your message. This gives the network enough information to deliver the packet of data. (Krol, 21) Now that you know the basics of the transferring data, we can now go into what you can find on the Internet and how to find them. Finding resources on the Internet can be very easy or difficult. Because there is so much information on the net, there will be undoubtedly some information on any subject you wish to learn about.

However that can be bad as well. Because of the abundance of information on the Internet it can be hard to find something specific within a subject. There are some tools on the Internet that can help you find exactly what you need. Some of these would be Gopher, WAIS, World Wide Web, search engines, and other browsing tools.

They all work in different way however and so each has a unique way of finding you information. The Gopher system was first developed at the University of Minnesota and was named after the mascot of the school (Gilster, 38). The tool allows you to look through the Internet by selecting resources from menus. You then select menus of the subject you wish to see until you have reached the information you desire.

Each time you pick a menu the topics become more and more specified. The big advantage with the Gopher system is that you can find information on any subject no matter what the type. Whether it be a document, sound file, or a video file. As long as they pertain to the same subject. And when you find something you like, you can easily read or access it through the Gopher without worrying about domain names and IP addresses. (Clark, 102) Gopher is more of a browser than a search tool.

The real searching is done mainly by the person, not the network, because the person determines which way the network goes. Wide Area Information Servers or WAIS, is another tool used to retrieve information off the Internet. WAIS servers allow you to search by content, rather that menus like that of the Gopher system. (Gilster, 100) The key to the WAIS system is the client / server relationship of the network. When you want to search a WAIS database, you first choose a keyword and enter it into the network server.

The network will then return to you with documents that include the keywords you " ve given. The matches are then ranked according to how many times the keyword you gave appears in the document. If one document has many examples of the keyword and another has only one, then the first document you would see is the one in which the keyword appeared more regularly. Unlike the Gopher system, WAIS does the searching for you. Once you give it enough information to find what you want, it will retrieve no matter where it is located, and give you the documents that are most likely to contain what you want. That is why more people prefer the WAIS system to the Gopher.

The World Wide Web is the attempt to organize all the information on the Internet, showing the associations within the information, and make it possible for the user of the information to move between them, making the knowledge more available. (Glister, 134) The Web can be also one of the many other tools to find resources or information on the Internet. The main basis of the Web is Web pages. In each Web page there a type of text which is called a hypertext or hyperlink. Hyperlinks / text are words that can be selected that will link you to other documents, which may be text, files, pictures, or anything. What this does is when looking for information on any one page, you can go to the hyperlinks that are given and expect to find similar information on a different Web page.

This is much different to that of the Gopher and WAIS system. The hyperlinks allow you to jump from place to place finding the same information, without having to go through menus. And on each page that you encounter you will also find a list of hyperlinks from which you can find even more information. And so the link continues on and on. However there is one disadvantage to this and that is if the links are not very appropriate and do not give you any information then there was no use to this tool. Because hyperlinks are variable some will take you to a completely different place than you intended to go.

Hyperlinks are only as good as the people who make them. You can also make your own Web page if you want to. The Web page can be on any subject you wish. And so your Web page becomes part of the chain from which people can learn. Another search tool is what's called a search engine.

Search engines find resources by keywords. You can search the net by finding documents that contain the keywords. The results come back with possibly thousands of matches, each containing some information on the given keywords. Because there can be thousands of matches, it is usually more efficient if you use specific terms rather than broad topics.

The search engines are very similar to that of the WAIS system, in that both use keywords to find information, both tap into a collection of data, and both use menus to give information on the topics. The difference between them is that the search engine utilizes the World Wide Web, and the WAIS system is used more through client / server networks. Some popular search engines found on the Internet would be, Yahoo, Lycos, AOL net find, and Hotbot. Each use the same method of retrieving information, but some present the results to you in different manners.

Electronic mail can also be a resource finding tool on the Internet. Electronic mail is when you send a message to someone's private electronic mailbox, like a regular letter, only through cyberspace (Gralla, 41) With e-mail you can write to anyone about anything. Say you are browsing on this one person's Web page, and you have a question about something on his site. Most likely their e-mail address is given on the page for people to write to him.

All you do is then write a letter, address it properly, and send it. Depending on when he responds and how long the message takes to get to him, he will send you a response answering your question. You have then learned something and so, e-mail is too an important tool for finding information on the internet. E-mail is not only for educational purposes, but can be used for entertainment purposes as well.

Writing e-mail is one of the many ways you can meet people over the Internet. You can write to one of your best friends you haven't seen in awhile. Or you can write to someone you don't know, like a pen pal. E-mail brings us into another part of the Internet, which is chatting.

Chatting is one of the most desired things to do on the Net besides finding information and writing e-mail. Although there are different manners in which to chat because of all the different types of Internet providers, I will give examples from the one I am most familiar with, which is America Online (AOL). When chatting on AOL, you can either go to the many chatroom's found on AOL. Or you can use an Instant Message or IM for short. An IM lets you chat with only one person, and no one else can see what you are typing. People find this way better than e-mail chatting because it is an immediate type of chatting, where they don't have to wait a couple of days to receive a response.

Well there is much more to be seen on the Internet than just what has been given in this paper. The Net gets bigger and bigger everyday and so many new things will arise in the future. Maybe in the far future, not too far, the whole world will be connected together through the Internet.


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3) Clark, David. "Guide to the Internet". Alpha Books. 1995.
4) Gralla, Preston. "Guide to Cyberspace". John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 19965) Long, Larry.
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