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History of the Internet

The Internet, often called simply "the Net," is a worldwide system of computer networks. It was conceived by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. government in 1969 and was called the ARPAnet. The original intent was to construct a network that would continue to function even if a large portion of it were destroyed, in the event of nuclear war, for example. 

The Internet is now a public, self-sustaining facility accessible to millions of people worldwide. Physically, the Internet uses a portion of the total resources of all the currently existing public telecommunication networks. Technically, what distinguishes the Internet as a cooperative public network is its use of a set of protocols called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol). 

Overview of the Internet:

For many Internet users, electronic mail (e-mail) has practically replaced the Postal Service for short written transactions. Electronic mail is the most widely used application on the Net. To use e-mail, you need an Internet address. This uniquely identifies you on the Net, so you will receive all messages intended for you, and (ideally) no messages not intended for you. 

It is also possible to carry on "conversations" with other computer users via the Internet. This is called IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Typing and reading messages in real time is more personal than e-mail, but it is less personal than talking on the telephone. However, Internet telephony hardware and software is available that allows real-time voice conversations on the Net. These programs work best when the Net is not being heavily used. When there are many people using the Net, Internet telephony becomes somewhat less reliable and the audio quality is compromised.

One of the most important features of Internet is the fact that it can get you in touch with myriad sources of information. You can do library research without having to commute or travel. You can get data from corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies without having to order it via mail or telephone. 

The most widely used part of the Internet is the World Wide Web (often abbreviated "WWW" or called "the Web"). Its outstanding feature is hypertext, a method of instant cross-referencing. In most Web sites, certain words or phrases appear in text of a different color than the rest; often this text is also underlined. When you select one of these words or phrases, you will be transferred to a site relevant to the word or phrase. Sometimes there are buttons, images, or portions of images that are "clickable." If you move the pointer over a spot on a Web site and the pointer changes into a hand, this indicates that you can click and be transferred to another site. 

There are various programs available for "Web surfing." These programs are called browsers. The most popular browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. The appearance of a particular Web site may vary slightly depending on the browser you use. Also, later versions of a particular browser are able to render more "bells and whistles" such as animation, virtual reality, sound, and music files, than earlier versions. 

Who owns the Internet? 

The Internet is a public collaboration. No one person, organization, or group of organizations owns it. As it grew from a small network of four computers used in research for the United States defense establishment into a public system comprised of hundreds of commercial telecommunication networks of all sizes, thousands of institutions, hundreds of thousands of businesses, and millions of individual users.

How is it all kept together?

Several organizations each participate in maintaining some kind of order to the Net. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a group of working members from many corporations and competent individuals that collaborate on maintaining the TCP/IP and the underlying Internet protocol.

The Web's protocol inventor is Tim Berners-Lee who co-founded The World Wide Web Consortium who foster the development of Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP) that your Web browser and all Web servers use, plus Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), and other Web standards. All the Net's addresses and domain names are controlled by an organization called InterNIC. 

The Internet continues to be influenced by governments around the world. Some governments determine how accessible the Internet is and who can access it. Democratic goverments are concerned about defense security, children's access to pornography, and the regulation of and provision of fair access to telecommunications infrastructure. 

How it all Works: 

Web pages are constructed using a coding language called Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). The HTML code is a text based code that travels 'Net connections quickly and is deciphered by your browser. HTML itself doesn't do much for the eye, but once it has put your browser to work colors, backgrounds, images and text are skillfully displayed to make the Web-site visually appealing. 

Your request for a page from somewhere on the World Wide Web travels through a labyrinth that is generally referred to as the Internet "infrastructure." For our tour, let's define it as your particular ISP (YC2.NET) and all the wires and routing to the ISP for the server where the Web page you're requesting is located.

After travelling through your phone line and through the telephone company's central office, your Web page request then travels through: 

  • 1.Your Internet service provider (ISP) server. 
  • 2.The regional network your ISP is connected to. In the United States, the regional networks link to the national commercial backbone links at four major network access points (NAPs) in close proximity to New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco.
  • 3.If necessary, through one of the four major network access points (NAPs) in the U.S. 
  • 4.Then through the national commercial backbone. 
  • 5.And then once again through the NAP, regional network, and ISP at the other end. 
Still confused? Don't worry! You don't have to know this information to use the Internet effectively. It does, however, show your connection isn't as direct as just connecting to YC2.NET and it's understandable why sometimes it doesn't always run a smoothly as we'd all like it to. 

What is really amazing is the speed to which all this happens! With millions of users online at one given moment, the Net does experience the occasional bottle neck, yet over all it flows relatively smoothly.

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