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Dave's Beginners Guide to the Internet

What is the Internet?

The Internet, in simplest terms, is the large group of millions of computers around the world that are all connected to one another. These computers are connected by phone lines, fiber optic lines, coaxial cable, satellites, and wireless connections.

When you log on to the Internet you are given access to many of the other computers that are connected around the world.

Some common ways of connecting to the Internet include:

  • Internet service provider ( ISP ) by modem
  • Internet ready cable
  • digital subscriber line ( ADSL )
  • simply turning on your computer which is on a network at work or school connected to the Internet

Today you can even get a wireless connection to the Internet with a handheld PC or notebook computer.

Caution: Be careful when reading e-mail. Most email that looks like its from a bank, credit card company, mortgage company, eBay, PayPal, etc, is actually a criminal trying to rip you off or steal your info.

To stay safe, NEVER click links in an e-mail message that takes you to a page that asks for ANY INFORMATION from you. Instead, go directly to the site. For example, if you want to check on your eBay account, open your web brower and type www.ebay.com. If you'd like to learn more about protecting yourself from this crime, go to Google and search for "phishing."

Once you are connected to the Internet you are able to do many things. You can send and receive e-mail. You can chat with text or voice. You can browse the World Wide Web. And you can perform countless other tasks with the appropriate software.

The Internet works a lot like a postal or parcel delivery system, except it is much, much faster. Say, for example, you are in California and want to send an e-mail to a friend in London. After you press the send button, your e-mail goes to your mail server. (Your mail server isn't usually part of your computer, but rather part of your internet service provider's computer network, so you can disconnect as soon as you press the send button and it won't interrupt delivery.) The mail server will attempt to contact your friend's mail server in London. But chances are your mail server doesn't have a direct line connecting it to your friend's mail server in London. Your mail server may have to "talk" to a computer in Chicago, which then takes to a computer in Washington, D.C., which contacts the London server via satellite. Or the Washington, D.C. computer might contact London via an undersea cable.

If the satellite or undersea cable appeared to be busy with other Internet data, your mail server may try sending west through Australia or Japan. In theory, the e-mail, although probably just a few paragraphs may possibly be broken into two or more parts and half of it would be sent east and half west. All the pieces would be reconstructed in London in one piece for your friend to read next time they log on.

The Internet is very dynamic. Routers and other computer server hardware try to find the best lines between servers so you get the best possible service. All of these connections are transparent to you, the Internet User. All of these connections look just like a direct connection to you. It makes using the Internet a lot easier.

CAUTION: It is important that you use a secure server when transferring personal information like credit card numbers over the Internet because any stop along the way (again, in theory) could log your credit card number. When you use a secure server, the number is encrypted (coded) and looks like gibberish to every computer except the one you are sending the number to. Look for a "secure server" option before entering your credit card number online.


Last Chapters: Browser Basics Part I, Part II