An introduction to the future

The Internet is a worldwide electronic network providing access to millions of informational resources, not all of which are free. It has revolutionized the computer and communications world like nothing before. The telegraph, telephone, radio, and computer had set the stage for this unprecedented integration of capabilities. The Internet is at once a worldwide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction among individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location.

The opening of the Internet to public access is the single most important scientific and social development of the 1990s. Many other wonderful achievements would not have been possible without public access to this formerly restricted Cold War military-industrial complex communications tool. The significance of the Internet is that:

  • It nearly eliminates, in a figurative sense, time and space, itself creating what is called "Cyberspace," wherein text and images (still and moving) take on a life of their own. Special types of websites, or locations on the World Wide Web (www), allow visitors to enter a cyberspace room or virtual space, using a chosen digital representative or "avatar" to interact with other visitors in real time.
  • It allows anyone to self-publish, giving individuals a global voice.
  • It allows anyone on the planet a global marketplace for commercial enterprises.
  • It delivers knowledge and education to the remotest places on — or off — the earth, and is the world`s largest library.
  • It is beginning to replace television with long-promised Interactive TV.
  • It allows “knowledge workers" to pursue gainful employment from home or nearly anywhere. This single aspect will eventually exert a great impact on America`s cities. No longer tied to commutable jobs in cities, many knowledge workers now have quality-of-life choices. They now are able to leave the city and suburb for such desirable domestic locations as small towns or rural areas, and still accomplish their given tasks.
  • What it is and does

    The Internet, or simply the Net, is the publicly accessible worldwide system of interconnected computer networks that exchange and pass through information being broadcast into the public domain at nearly light speed. Transmitted data move around the globe and into outer space in seconds by utilizing 1“packet switching" and a standard way of carrying out data transmission between computers called “Internet Protocol" (IP).

    The Internet is made up of millions of smaller commercial, academic, domestic, and government networks. It carries such information and services as electronic mail, on-line chat, voice, interlinked web pages, and other documents of the www. The first software application created for the Internet was an electronic mail utility program.

    A basic history of the Internet - your tax dollars at work

    The story of the Internet began in 1969, with the implementation of ARPANET by academic researchers under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Defense, Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).

    Some early research that contributed to the ARPANET included work on decentralized networks, queuing theory, and packet switching. However, ARPANET itself did not interact easily with other computer networks that did not share its own native protocol. This problem inspired further research towards the development of a protocol that could be "layered" over many different types of networks.

    On January 1, 1983, the core networking protocol of ARPANET was changed from NCP to 2TCP/IP, marking the beginning of the Internet as it is known today.

    Another important step in the Internet`s development was the National Science Foundation`s (NSF) construction of a university network backbone, the NSFNet, in 1986. Important disparate networks that have successfully been accommodated within the Internet include 3Usenet and 4Bitnet.

    Tim Berners-Lee

    World Wide Web

    The collective network gained a public face in the 1990s. In August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee publicized his new World Wide Web (www) project two years after he had begun to create 5HTML, 6HTTP, and the first few web pages at 7CERN in Switzerland. A few academic and governmental institutions contributed pages, but the public did not see them yet. In 1993 the Mosaic web browser version 1.0 was released, and by late 1994, there was growing public interest in the previously academic/technical Internet.

    By 1996 the word "Internet" was common in the public vocabulary, but few of the general public outside scientific circles yet understood the Internet beyond the www.

    The Mosaic web browser was the first 8www application software. Mosaic 1.0 had original support for accessing documents and data using www, gopher, 9Anonymous FTP, and NNTP (Usenet News) and 10 Telnet protocols were included.

    Support existed for Archie, Finger, Whois, and Veronica etc., through gateways. These funny names, some taken from comic book characters, all refer to unique software tools called communications utilities. They were developed for the Internet before www.

    Meanwhile, over the course of the 1990s, the Internet successfully accommodated the majority of previously existing computer networks (although such networks as 11FidoNet have remained separate).

    This growth is often attributed to the lack of central administration, which allows organic growth of the network, as well as the non-proprietary nature of the Internet protocols. This encourages vendor interoperability and prevents a company from exerting too much control over the network.

    Portals and search engines

    With tens of millions of computers already connected, serving up access to billions of web pages, Portals and Search Engines are the normal starting places for web surfers. A portal is a gateway to an inner sanctum in cyberspace. America On Line (AOL), is a good example.

    Search engines use specialized software that indexes large portions of the web. Users of search engines enter a keyword and receive a listing of supposedly relevant links to web pages. Results are usually (1) preceded by sponsored websites, and (2) overwhelming in quantity. A successful search starts with a thoughtful question.

    Although the Internet is the newest medium for information flows, it is the fastest-growing new medium of all time, and becoming the first-choice information medium for its users.

    Internet access and "World Wide Wait"

    Access to the Internet requires an electronic device called a modem. The term is an acronym for Modulate-Demodulate, which is what a modem does. The modem is the telephone connection between the computer and the Internet. Early modems were slow and for text only.

    The introduction of www included graphics, so it seemed much slower — popularizing the phrase, World Wide Wait. The Modem`s roots lie in the early telegraph system created by Samuel F.B. Morse and the Western Union company. Modern digital modems have overcome the speed limitations of the early models and allow music, video and real-time voice to tranfer 50 to 100 times faster. This faster modem technology is called Broadband, but it is still based upon old Morse telegraph technology.

    Voiceover IP (VOIP)

    One of the latest applications utilizing the Internet is Voiceover Internet protocol (VOIP). VOIP allows people to talk to each other through their computer connection, like a standard telephone.

    VOIP is for those with fast Internet connections that bypass Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) and the traditional telephone network, allowing them to talk to anyone on the planet who is similarly connected for free, and as long as they desire to keep the connection open.

    New Internet commercial services offer fee-based VOIP to home users that utilize fast, broadband Internet access. Home Internet access is traditionally through the POTS, too slow for VOIP. Businesses, government and school Internet connections are usually much faster and can accommodate many simultaneous users utilizing a specialized network computer (an IP/PBX Internet Protocol Private Branch eXchange), to route voice traffic over their Internet connection, bypassing POTS altogether. One example of this is hosted IP PBX.

    The future is Internet2

    Eventually rendering broadband obsolete, the high-capacity Internet of the future already exists. Internet2 was up and running before the Internet was opened to the public. The Internet2 network connects U.S. research universities and the military-industrial complex at speeds 50-100 times faster than the older public network.

    Internet2 works at 100 million bits per second (mbps), that can support such advanced applications as tele-medicine and streaming HDTV-quality video. Internet2 is a not-for-profit consortium led by more than 180 U.S. universities and partnered with more than 60 leading companies.

    1: Packet Switching - A packet is a piece of a message transmitted over a packet-switching network. The Internet is such a network. One of the key features of a packet is that it contains the destination address in addition to the data being transmitted. In Internet Protocol (IP) networks, packets are often called datagrams.
    2: TCP/IP - Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
    3: Usenet - A set of tens of thousands of "newsgroups," (discussion forums) distributed through the Internet. Newsgroups have descriptive names, e.g. sci.astro.amateur, and are arranged in hierarchies or classifications. Slowly being replaced by web-based forums, (Search Yahoo Groups).
    4: Bitnet - A Wide Area Network linking university computer centers all over the world to transfer email between and among scholars, now incorporated into the Internet.
    5: HTML - Hypertext Markup Language: a set of codes, called "tags," inserted into a text document to define fonts, tables, images, links to other pages and other page layout details for documents intended for www publication.
    6: HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol: a standard method of publishing information as hypertext in HTML format, forming a destination web page address.
    7: CERN - The European Organization for Nuclear Research (Switzerland), the world`s largest particle physics center. Physicists explore what matter is made of and what forces hold it together.
    8:World Wide Web (www) - The www is a part of the Internet where information and images are presented graphically. The most popular segment of the Internet.
    9: Anonymous FTP - File Transfer Protocol: a standard way of transferring files from one computer to another.
    10: Telnet - An important utility used extensively to transfer files between networked computers.
    11: FidoNet - Consists of approximately 10,000 systems world-wide, which comprise a network that exchanges mail and files via modems. FidoNet is free to join and requires free downloadable software. This network is run and maintained by hobbyists who actively participate in its operation and maintenance.

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