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Surfing the Internet   By:

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Surfing the INTERNET: an Introduction Version 2.0.2 December 15, 1992

c. 1992 Jean Armour Polly. Material quoted from other authors was compiled from public Internet posts by those authors. No copyright claims are made for those compiled quotes. Permission to reprint is granted for nonprofit educational purposes. Please let me know if you find this compilation useful. This first (much shorter) version of this appeared in the June, 1992 Wilson Library Bulletin. Please include this entire copyright/copy notice if you duplicate this document. Updates may be ftp'd:

ftp ( login anonymous password name@machine.node cd /pub/resources/guides

Please choose the most current version of surfing.the.internet.

Please send updates and corrections to:

Today I'll travel to Minnesota, Texas, California, Cleveland, New Zealand, Sweden, and England. I'm not frantically packing, and I won't pick up any frequent flyer mileage. In fact, I'm sipping cocoa at my Macintosh. My trips will be electronic, using the computer on my desk, communications software, a modem, and a standard phone line.

I'll be using the Internet, the global network of computers and their interconnections, which lets me skip like a stone across oceans and continents and control computers at remote sites. I haven't "visited" Antarctica yet, but it is only a matter of time before a host computer becomes available there!

This short, non technical article is an introduction to Internet communications and how librarians and libraries can benefit from net connectivity. Following will be descriptions of electronic mail, discussion lists, electronic journals and texts, and resources available to those willing to explore. Historical details about the building of the Internet and technical details regarding network speed and bandwidth are outside the scope of this piece.

What's Out There Anyway?

Until you use a radio receiver, you are unaware of the wealth of programming, music, and information otherwise invisible to you. Computer networks are much the same. About one million people worldwide use the Internet daily. Information packet traffic rises by 12% each month.

About 727,000 host computers are connected, according to a January, 1992 report (Network Working Group Request for Comments: 1296) by Mark K. Lottor. So, what's all the excitement about? What's zipping around in that fiber and cable and ether, anyway?

On my electronic adventure I browsed the online catalog at the University Library in Liverpool, England, leaving some "Hi there from Liverpool, New York" mail for the librarian.

I downloaded some new Macintosh anti virus software from Stanford's SUMEX archive.

Then I checked a few databases for information needed for this article, and scanned today's news stories.

I looked at the weather forecast for here in the East and for the San Francisco Bay area, forwarding that information to a friend in San Jose who would read it when he woke up. The Internet never closes!

After that I read some electronic mail from other librarians in Israel, Korea, England, Australia and all over the U.S. We're exchanging information about how to keep viruses off public computers, how to network CDROMS, and how to reink inkjet printer cartridges, among other things.

I monitor about twelve discussion groups. Mail sent to the group address is distributed to all other "subscribers". It's similar to a round robin discussion. These are known variously as mailing lists, discussion groups, reflectors, aliases, or listservs, depending on what type they are and how they are driven. Subscriptions are free.

One of these groups allows children and young adults all over the world to communicate with each other. Kids from Cupertino to Moscow are talking about their lives, pets, families, hope and dreams. It's interesting to see that Nintendo is a universal language!

Teachers exchange lesson plans and bibliographies in another group, and schools participate in projects like the global market basket survey... Continue reading book >>

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