Pete's September 1996 Article.


"That Glorious Internet" by Pete Bennett

It was like being reborn. Not as in religion, but like starting over. What I'm talking about is my first cruise around "that glorious internet." It wasn't a guided cruise, I was just surfing on my own, but it was glorious! Now you may think I've "lost it," many people do, but it was my first ride on an Internet wave and I was enjoying it. Many of you probably don't even know what the Internet is. Right? But wait, before you stop reading, let me tell you about it. Don't be afraid You won't drown. You may enjoy it just as I did. The Internet or "Net" as it is sometimes called is a large group of computers, all joined together somehow, to form a network. This network is so large that no one really knows how large it is. It is many networks combined (as many as 100,000) and it's not controlled by anyone, not even President Clinton, who recently signed legislation that would attempt to control the flow of obscene material that is available on it. It's not a United States thing you see, it is world wide. This World Wide Web as it's also known, is joined like a group of radio and television stations form a network. But, rather then just supply information as those networks do, the internet allows for a free exchange of their information. The internet is beginning to effect all our lives (even those not a part of it) greater then the telephone, radio or television ever did. The information available on it is limitless. Using a system called file transfer protocol (FTP) you can download or retrieve data from computer banks anywhere in the world, in most cases free. Here is a brief Internet Overview that may help you understand it better. As I said, the Internet is the worlds largest computer network. A computer network is basically a number of computers hooked together providing facilities that are available to anyone who has access to the net. The Internet's facilities are provided through a large set of different services, most of them offering free access. Some networks however, do enforce additional passwords and restrictions to subscriber type services such as the Dow Jones. What kind of facilities you ask ??

Electronic Mail (E-Mail) - This is the most widely used feature of most services. Imagine that you can exchange e-mail with millions of people all over the world in a matter of seconds. E-mail has replaced the need for messenger and fax services for many businesses all over the world. And the best part is, without long distance charges.

On-Line Chat/Conversation (IRC) - Internet Relay Chat - What this feature allows, is the ability to chat in "real-time mode" to other users anywhere on the Internet by typing on your keyboard. Once connected to an IRC server, you can join a number of "chat" rooms. Each of the "chat" rooms have a unique name that refers to the general topic of discussion. Also relatively new to the Internet is "IPHONE," where if you have a microphone and a sound card you can actually hold a voice conversation over the Internet. This feature still needs some fine tuning. Also for you online role playing game nuts, IRC offers game playing.

Information Retrieval - Literally millions of computers have files of information that are available free of charge. The files range from: legal, travel, hobbies, political, digitized pictures and just about any other topic you can think of. Almost all of the information is suitable for family audiences. You can also obtain games, tools, and operating systems.

News Groups (Bulletin Boards) - Usenet is an enormous, on-line, distributed bulletin board containing approximately 12,000 different news groups. As with the Information Retrieval, there is wide range of topic discussion from A-Z. There are groups for: want ads, for sale, hobbies, computer nerds, you name it.

Genealogists can visit the Library of Congress to do research or join a newsgroup dedicated to that subject as I have done. The one I'm subscribed to is operated by a soldier, located in Korea, where he is stationed with the US Army. He noted the other day that it took the message I sent him just 1.6 seconds to reach his site. You couldn't dial a phone that fast to reach someone in Korea.

So here's all you need to try it out. A computer with a fast modem that will connect you by telephone to an ISP (internet service provider) to get "on line" where fees range from $10.00 to $25.00 per month. Perhaps a second telephone line into your home so the kids don't cut off your connection by picking up the receiver while you're on line. All told, it's little to pay for serious usage or just the fun of surfing the net. Contact your local computer store to find your local ISP and there won't be any long distance charges while your on line. Good luck and Good surfin'.


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