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This is a brief introduction to the Internet. It outlines the main issues in learning and using the Internet.

What is the Internet?

A network of connected computers communicating via TCP/IP protocol (special electronic language) in order to share information. The Internet is a global information and communication resource.


The Internet was created in the late 1960s as a U.S. Defense Department network called, ARPAnet. This network was designed for military research.

Connecting to the Internet

In order to connect to the Internet you need:

  • A PC
  • A phone connection
  • A modem (takes a signal, changes its properties, and transmits it to another like system) if it is not already a part of your computer.
  • Internet service provider company (ISP)
  • A browser (Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer) installed and configured.


  • Electronic mail (e-mail) Applications that allow you to send and receive mail messages. They also let you organize messages, create address books, mailing lists, forward messages, attach files to messages, etc.
  • Telnet is a remote login application. It allows you to be on one computer and log on to a remote computer in the network. It was used more in the past for connecting to databases at libraries, universities, and other scientific institutions. Some resources, however, are available only through Telnet.
  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP). This allows your computer to retrieve complete files intact from another remote computer. One of the best FTP programs is WS_FTP. You can download and upload sites to FTP sites around the world. You need to know the name of the account on the FTP server in order to connect to this site. You will need a password and a user name. Publicly available FTP sites use the password anonymous.
  • Gopher, an early text only method for accessing Internet documents. Gopher has been almost entirely absorbed into the World Wide Web, but you may still find Gopher documents linked in Web pages. Gopher sites are hyper- linked text-based menus.
  • Newsgroups let you read and post messages that have been sent to public bulletin boards or discussion groups. USENET is the largest bulletin board service. Deja News is a search engine that searches messages in Newsgroups.
  • Chats are specific places on the Internet where one can participate in live discussions by typing on their keyboards.


  • The World Wide Web (WWW) is a collection of multimedia documents that are connected by hypertext links. Hypertext is composed of a computer language called hypertext markup language or HTML.
  • E-conferences are filmed by a camera that simultaneously shows the recorded information on the Internet.
  • Databases and Electronic Journals are collections of electronic documents searchable through the Internet. Often they require a password and user name.
  • WAIS (Wide Area Information Servers) This service helps you search indexed material. Good way to search for articles in Internet archives. In order to use WAIS you need to have a computer running WAIS client program. You can install this program on your own workstation or you can access a computer that has the client installed and run it there.
  • Archie is a software located on a type of server that lets you search for FTP sites on the Internet. You can connect to an archie server via Telnet and log on using archie as the account name. This method does not require a password.
  • Other (software, graphics, virtual reality systems)


The World Wide Web is the newest information service to arrive on the Internet. The web is based on a technology called hypertext (links). Most of the development has taken place at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, Switzerland. The WWW is an attempt to organiza all the information on the Internet as a set of hypertext documents. Individual Web pages reside on computers called "servers" located all over the world.

  • Browsers are computer programs that enable you to view WWW documents. Most browsers will let you view text as well as graphics. Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer are the most common browsers.
  • Bookmarks allow the computer to remember your favorite Web Sites, so you don't have to look them up anew each time you log on to the Web. Browsers allow you to create and manage bookmarks.
  • URLs (uniform resource locators) are the unique addresses for documents on the Web.
  • The Domain Name System is a way of dividing the Internet into understandable groups, or domains. The name of each domain is tacked on the Internet address, starting from the right with the largest domain. For example:

.mil (military): part of the US military such as the Army, connected to the Internet
.gov (Government): U.S. government agencies connected to the Internet
.com (Commercial) : commercial companies that have computers connected to the Internet.
.ogr (Organization): other organizations on the Internet.
.net (Network) : groups concerned with the administration of the Internet.
.us (U.S.A.): country domain
.edu (Educational): schools and universities that are connected to the Internet.

Web Searching Tools

The WWW is not indexed in any standard vocabulary like library catalogues which use the Library of Congress Classification System for subject description. When you search the Web you actually search it by accessing an intermediary search tool that in turn organizes and indexes Web pages and databases. These "search tools" then retrieve and organize the Web sites from your search, which in turn, can provide URL's and hyperlinks to other pages on individual servers around the world.

The Invisible Web

The Invisible web is what you cannot get by searching with traditional search engines, guides, and directories. The information available via specialized searchable databases cannot be captured by search engine spiders like in the visible web. Other types of search tools exist in order to search the invisible web. The pages from databases are dynamically generated just for your search, and are not stored anywhere like general web pages you find in search engines. You have to go to the page with a search box for the specialized database and search it.
Some of the best directories and lists of searchable databases frequently useful in academic research are: Pro Fusion (http://www.profusion.com) and A Collection of Search Engines (http://www.leidenuniv.nl/ub/biv/specials.htm).

Further Online ReferencesIntroduction to the World Wide Web: [from the University of Aberdeen, UK]
Search Engine Watch: [Information on how search engines work, reviews, tutorials, news, and similar topics.]
Search Engine Detailed Feature Comparison [from UC Berkley)

Further Print References

Hoffman, Paul. The Internet. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc: Foster City: CA, c1994.
Kovacs, Diane. The Internet Trainer's Guide. Van Nostrand Reinhold: New York, c1995.
Krol, Ed. The Whole Internet: User's Guide and Catalog. O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. CA, 1992.
Nelson, Stephen. Field Guide to the Internet. Microsoft Press: Redmond, WA, c1995.
Walker, Mark. How to Use the Internet. Ziff-Davis Press: Emerville, CA, c1997.

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