The Internet - the first global forum, the first global library, and it never closes.


"The Internet is the name for a group of worldwide information resources. ... The Internet is the first global forum and the first global library. The Internet never closes."

The Internet Complete Reference, Harley Hahn, Rick Stout, (Osborne McGraw-Hill)

The Internet is a global network of computer-generated files. It originated as text documents but now includes graphic, sound and video files. These files are stored on computers around the world that have been set up to be permanently (most of them) connected to the world's telephone networks. Computers set up for this purpose are called servers. Apart from the fact that they use special software programs and exceptionally large hard drives, they are not too different from the computer you use at home or at the office.

The amazing aspect of this new technology is that the mass of information that is the Internet can travel from computer to computer by means of the world's telephone systems and satellites. Copies of the documents and other files can travel to your computer too if you make a few special arrangements - you need a computer, a modem, a phone line, an account with an Internet Service Provider (or with America OnLine or Compuserve) and the addresses of sites and documents that you want to see.

The World Wide Web (WWW) is part of the Internet. This is the name given to those resources on the Internet that are augmented with hypertext, images and sounds. Phone-line access to the Internet allows you to download and display on your computer screen, hypertext and pictures that are "hot-linked" so that you can "jump" from place to place within the Internet. What you are doing in reality is receiving copies of computer files/documents that reside on special computers around the world that are known as servers. The servers have large hard drives where files are stored. The copy that you receive and that displays on your screen, disappears when you switch off your computer (but may be cached on your hard drive.)

"Using the Internet" means sitting at your computer screen and accessing information. You might be at work, at school, or at home using virtually any type of computer.

A typical session will begin with you connecting (using a communications program on your computer) via a modem over the phone line to your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) www server computer. Then you might check your electronic mail (e-mail). Your e-mail program might, or might not, be the same application (software program) that you use to access the Internet.

Two popular applications for accessing the Internet and the World Wide Web are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer. These are called browsers. Unless you are subscribing to a service like Compuserve or America-On-Line, you need to have such a browser installed on your hard drive.

While connected to your ISP you can launch your browser and, using special Internet addresses called Universal Resource Locators (URLs), you can connect to servers around the world and receive copies of files that will be displayed on your screen. One of the interesting, even challenging, aspects of "Surfing the Web" is finding information that interests you. Therefore, a great place to start is at a site where there is a WWW database for you to search. These sites have what are commonly called "Search Engines" that will search for words or phrases in their vast databases of Internet resources.

Some Sites to Visit:

AltaVista - A search engine site at

Yahoo - A search engine site at

California Highway Conditions - at

CNN - global news - at

Genealogy Homepage (A HUGE resource) - at

Project Gutenberg - Classics online at

Sacramento Bee - at

Travel related links - at

UC Davis Library - text only at

Page last updated: November 30, 1999
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