WEB 101 The basics about how to begin your virtual experience! 
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The Basics
What is the Internet?
How do I "Get On?"
Brand New to the Web?


If you know your way around a mouse and a modem, you already know that the Internet can be a very powerful and multi-faceted tool. If, however, you're new to the vast online explosion, you may be quite perplexed as to the terms, procedures, and protocols of this limitless digital domain. As with any power tool, it's crucial to know the basics before you tackle your designated project.

The purpose of this article is to start at the beginning and attempt to explain in everyday, non-technical terms what the Internet is, how it works, and what it can mean to you and your personal productivity. It would take volumes to discuss every aspect, so we will try to focus on the basics: getting started; basic terminology; how to get from here to there (and back); and also touch on some minor troubleshooting. We welcome and invite your input, feedback, questions, and suggestions.

It's called many things: the net, the web, the information super-highway, the road to the future, and yes, even the road to ruin. Depending on how you look at it, all are correct. While there are some down sides to the internet, if used properly, it can be a positive resource for all who choose to participate. The key element appears to be common sense. You wouldn't spend 24 hours a day in say, a coffee shop, likewise, it's not advised that you spend 24 hours a day in front of your computer monitor perusing the plethora of online options. Similarly, most people would walk right by a porn shop without venturing inside, so too the rule applies online. Browse right on by, and you'll be fine. The same goes for personal encounters. Would you believe everything a stranger you met on the street told you about himself with out checking it out? Of course not. Use the same (or stricter) standards with individuals you might meet online. Okay, let's get started!

What exactly is the Internet, and is it the same as the World Wide Web?

The Internet is, simply, a network of networks. It began in 1969 as a way for the U.S. Department of Defense and research universities to share information and also to protect that information in the case of a nuclear attack (The thinking was that if a nuclear disaster occurred at one location, the information would also be stored - and therefore be safe - at another location). The Internet is separate from other networks such as AOL, which is a privately owned network - but both have the same access to web sites and online information. Michael Malazdrewicz (An Internet Primer) explains it as the "third wave" of computing: "The first wave was mainframe computers. One computer, many users. The second wave was the personal computer. One computer, one user. The Internet is the third wave since it allows a single user to access many different computers. One user, many computers."

The World Wide Web (or "web") was developed in 1990, and is actually a subset of the Internet. Simply put, the web consists of Internet files that are specifically coded so they can be displayed graphically on a computer screen (much like a magazine page, as opposed to pure text documents).

How do I get 'on' the net?

In order to connect (or "log-on") to the Internet, you must have:

  1. A computer with a modem (a modem - short for MOdulator/DEModulator - is a device that coverts digital computer signals into a form that can travel over phone lines, and vice-versa).
  2. A phone line.
  3. An Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as Ionet, Fullnet, AOL, CompuServe, EarthLink, etc. to provide the connection (access) to the Internet.
  4. A browser (a browser is a software program - usually free - that allows you to 'browse' or view the web pages. A browser, such as MS Internet Explorer or Netscape merely 'translates' the code into a readable form.

The simplest way to get connected is to call a service provider and request service. This usually costs about $20.00 per month, and each ISP can walk you through the simple process of installation. Installation consists of inserting a CD-ROM into your drive and following the on-screen instructions. Once you're 'connected', you're ready to (pardon the overused cliché) surf the net!

Send your questions and/or comments to: web101@hightide.com

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