Get onto the World Wide Web - NOW!
The World Wide Web (also "WWW" or "the Web" or "W3") is a hypertext-based information system. Liberally sprinkled throughout the Web are home pages or Web sites, often embellished with creative graphics. These are the starting points for Web exploration.
Hypertext is text that is not necessarily linear - we don't have to read one sentence after the other. The text contains "links" or pointers to other pages. This link is exercised, in a mouse-based system, by pointing at the text and clicking. You are taken to another location which represents the referenced word. This second location, which may contain still more links, could be within the document you are reading or could take you to a file on a computer several continents away.
Thus, clicking on "WWW" in a hypertext might swiftly transfer you to CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, where the WWW was born. To round out this picture, hypermedia advances to the next level of providing links to graphics, both still and moving, as well as sound bites.
THE PARTS LIST
The proper hardware: The first component is obviously an adequate computer. Any setup that comfortably hosts Microsoft's Windows or the Macintosh OS should effectively act as a WWW client.
The Web is graphics-intensive; it can deliver glorious pictures and video images, but a lot of data needs to be transferred. A critical component is therefore a fast modem, the component which connects your computer to the telephone lines. The simple rule-of-thumb - the faster the better. A 9,600-bits-per-second (b/sec) modem can be considered rock-bottom, while the latest 28.8-kb/sec modems or ISDN digital circuits should be seriously considered. Server computers on the Net will generally be connected with either a T1 (1.54 Mb/sec) or a T3 (45 Mb/sec) high-speed network link.
A service provider: Few of us are blessed with the capital and resources necessary to make our computer a full-fledged Internet node. Rather, we must subscribe to the Net through a provider. The provider can take many forms. Included are educational institutions, municipalities and military sites, as well as commercial providers. Commercial sources offer connections to the Internet varying from full service, usually required for WWW, to partial service, perhaps limited to email or newsgroups. The service provided may be limited to certain operating systems, i.e., Unix, OS/2 or Windows, and may represent a nationwide or regional dial-up service. Access through "800"/WATS telephone lines is also available. In January 1995, Prodigy [R] Service (1-800-Prodigy), with widespread telephone availability, became the first national non-Internet-based service to provide full Interact access, including the WWW.
A good browser: A "browser" is a software program which permits navigation on the WWW. A well-designed browser is intuitive and fun to use. It shields the user from arcane Unix commands. The archetypal browser is Mosaic, developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Many other browsers have been developed and one will doubtless be included in the start-up software provided by a good service provider.
Other accoutrements: Not to worry. There are cryptic words and phrases which identify the old WWW surfer (the person who preceded you onto the Web by two weeks): search engines, WAIS, Gopher, Lynx, Telnet and on and on. Forget it - the tools you'll need will come with your start-up materials; those you don't have but want to try can usually be found on the Net as freeware (no cost) or shareware (try them; if you want to continue using the programs, pay a relatively small registration fee).
So select a service provider, take the plunge, visit JED's home page and become addicted to the mind-altering phenomenon of the last decade of the 20th century - cyberspace.
An excellent treatment of available services, "Looking for the Right Internet Connection" by Glenn Fleishman, can be found on pp. 51-58 of the January 30, 1995, issue of Infoworld.
Other resources to service providers can be found on the Net itself. An e-mail message to info-deli-server PDIAL, the Public Dialup Internet Access List, consisting of hundreds of national and local service providers conveniently sorted by area codes. Along with the phone numbers will come e-mail addresses from which you may receive more information about rates and services.
The FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) found in many areas of the Net provide a most valuable resource. Lists of service providers and tips on getting Internet access can be found in news-groups such as "alt.bbs.internet," "alt.internet.access.wanted" and "alt.internet.access."
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|Title Annotation:||computer network|
|Publication:||Journal of Electronic Defense|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1995|
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