Welcome to the Internet

Tips for making your online experience fun, informative and fast(er)

Courtesy of Safe-t.net

Warning: If you are a technical expert, do not read the following information. It is oversimplified and far too user-friendly to make you happy. If, however, you are like 98% of the world, you will find the following information refreshing and helpful.

In it, we will give you simple explanations of :

-What the Internet is

-What the Internet is NOT

-What is the World Wide Web (WWW)?

-What is a LINK?

-What about ADDRESSES?

-How do I get to DOCUMENTS?

-How does a BROWSER work?

-How do I FIND things on the WEB?

-What is E-MAIL?

-How do I learn more?

If you are feeling a little uncomfortable, don't worry. Everyone who uses the Internet started the same way. Everyone has their first e-mail. Everyone has their first search. With a little patience, you will find that the benefits (and fun) of the Internet will be yours for the taking.

What is the Internet?

The Internet was started in the late 1960's as an experiment by the U.S. Department of Defense. At that time, computers did not communicate well with each other. Even worse, it was common for one of the computers to stop working, causing the shutdown of other connected computers. The U.S. government wanted to create a network of computers built to withstand the crash of one or more of its parts. Then they reasoned that a really good network could survive more than a system crash, it could withstand an atomic blast!

They succeeded. Their network of computers could communicate and keep running when whole sections were shut down. They called this network ARPANET. One of the great secrets of its success was the way the computers were connected. Instead of expensive new technologies, the best answer turned out to be plain, old telephone service.

ARPANET worked so well because it was more than a network of computers. It was many networks all connected together. Information could travel from one network to another (or inter-network). It wasn't long before ARPANET changed to Internet.

At first, the Internet was used solely by the federal government, but soon universities and other institutions connected themselves to the Internet to communicate with one another. Each organization was responsible for maintaining its part of the network, so the Internet was not owned or controlled by any one organization. (This is still true today.)

The U.S. Department of Defense wasn't too crazy about sharing their indestructible network with everyone else in the world, so they released their part of it and started another. The gap was taken up immediately by others who wanted a piece of this great new way to communicate. In the late 1980s, businesses began connecting to the Internet in large numbers. This was the beginning of the more 'commercial' version of the Internet that we use today.

What the Internet is NOT: It is not 'the web.' It is not electronic mail. It is not a bunch of telephone cables. The Internet is a term that describes all of these things together.

Part of the Internet is hardware. Your computer, when it is connected to a telephone line that leads to Safe-t.net's computers, is part of the Internet. So are the local telephone lines, the high-speed digital telephone lines, routers, modems, and thousands of other computers.

Part of the Internet is software. The programs that allow you to send e-mail, download pictures, and many other things; all are part of the huge, indestructible network called the Internet.

 What is the World Wide Web (WWW)?

During the old days when the government and universities controlled the Internet, it was very hard to use. Internet users (mostly well-trained engineering types) would communicate using mysterious written instructions, such as "ls>hello.user., acct1; games:fidonet>bix,,msyzptlx;plink:bonehead…" or something like that.

The World Wide Web project -- started by Tim Berners-Lee while at CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics)-- created a way for less technical people to use the Internet. Instead of having painfully confusing strings of letters for different processes on the Internet, it allowed access to the Internet by referring to everything in terms of documents and addresses.

(The scientists at CERN created the WWW, with its URLs and HTML, because they felt the world needed more acronyms. Just kidding.)

This concept of documents and addresses is vitally important in helping you understand what is happening on the Internet. If you don't learn anything else from this, remember that everything on the World Wide Web is a document at an address.

Just as you would find in the real world, documents come in many shapes and sizes. They can be pictures, or plain text, or a mixture of the two. They can be as small as a yellow sticky note or as big as a dictionary.

On the World Wide Web, they can be even more varied. Because all of these documents are electronic in nature (just like files on your computer), they can also do things that real world documents can't. For example, web documents can have animations (like cartoons) on them. They can have sounds come out of them. They can even run programs.

The most common kind of document on the World Wide Web is the web page. (See, its not such a great leap to think of a document as a page.) The best thing about web pages is their ability to link to other web pages.

What do we mean by link?

A web page link is an area of the page that is attached to another web page. The most common form of this is underlined writing like this. When you see underlined writing on a web page, it usually means that you can click your mouse on those words and automatically go to the page that is attached to it.

This is most helpful when you want to know more about the underlined words. For example, if you see the sentence "Here is the way to get free candy for life!" you would be interested in finding out more. Clicking the mouse once over "free candy for life" would cause you to go to a web page with more information.

You will also find web pages that have links attached to pictures. These usually have a border around them, or some visual clue such as "Click me!"

These documents don't just float around on the telephone wires outside your house. Just like the real world, they have to be somewhere. This brings us to the second concept: every document has to have an address.

What about Addresses?

The address, or location, of each document is usually on a computer somewhere. It would be very confusing to ask for every document by saying: "Get me the hyperlinked web page called my_favorite_movies.htm on cylinder 49 of the e: hardddisk on Bob's computer connection to the network of United Kiddie Care at 2345 NE Southwest St, Apartment 605, Anytown, USA 97007." First of all, you'd have to know where everything is. Next, you'd have to ask for it without any typos.

The World Wide Web uses addresses that are a little simpler to use. They give each location a number as a reference. This same file may be located at 209.67.29.11. Isn't that more efficient?

This kind of address is much easier for an engineer, but it really isn't very clear to the rest of the world. This is why the Web also uses another way of describing the address of a document. The same file we just described in the last paragraph may also have the address of www.usatoday.com

That sounds a little easier to understand, doesn't it?

How do I get to these documents?

To access the web, you run a browser program. Just as you might go to a book store and browse through the magazines on a rack, the browser reads documents, and can fetch documents from other sources.

There are two very popular web browsers available today, and both are free. One is Microsoft Internet Explorer, which may have been on your computer when you bought it. The other is called Netscape Communicator. Both are excellent products with many of the same features.

Both browsers allow you to see virtually any file on the World Wide Web, as well as less popular Internet schemes such as FTP (file transfer protocol) and Usenet. If you would like more information on FTP, Usenet, Gopher and others, you shouldn't be reading this. Try www.yahoo.com.

How does a Browser work?

The browser is a program much like your favorite writing program or computer game. When you open it, you will find a menu with the words File, Edit, View, etc. much as you would with other applications. The most important difference is that it is not looking at files on your computer, it is looking at document on the Internet.

In order for it to 'see' documents on the Internet, it must be connected. This requires a modem in your computer with a telephone line leading to your wall telephone outlet. A modem is nothing more than a device that allows your computer to 'talk' on a telephone line.

This modem must call a local number (supplied by Safe-t.net) which connects the call to the rest of the Internet. This is a very complex process. Fortunately, you don't need to know how it works to use the Internet.

At Safe-t.net, we have selected the page that your browser looks at every time it starts. It is a page we have on our computers. You can change this page when you are more experienced, but for now it is best to leave it here.

The buttons at the top of the browser are your friends. Get to know them. The BACK button is especially handy for new users. If you get to a place when you don't know what you are doing or where on the Web you are, simply start clicking the BACK button until you recognize where you are.

Another button that really helps if you get lost or confused is the HOME button. It will return you to the web page you started with. With these two buttons in mind, you can randomly click on links and have no fear of getting lost.

If you do get lost and the buttons don't make sense to you, you can always close the whole browser and start all over again. Click on the FILE menu and click on EXIT. This will close your browser, but it won't disconnect you from the Internet.

To open the Browser once again, double click on the INTERNET icon on your desktop or press the START button, select PROGRAMS, and search through your program list until you find your browser. It will open to the same page it always opens to.

Realistically you shouldn't need to do this unless something is very wrong. In 99% of all situations, the HOME button should be all you need.

The first several times you use your browser, its best to just randomly play with the links and buttons. This leisurely activity is the best training you can get as you begin. It's what the term "surfing the Internet" really means.

Safe-t.net has made this play a little more productive by adding buttons on our default page that relate to things people enjoy. Click on the button called KIDS on our home page and then try any of the buttons on the linked page. Have fun!

And don't worry. You can always go home …

How do I find what I want on the Web?

There are tens of millions of documents on the Web. Some are frivolous, some are fascinating, and some are so technical that they will put you to sleep. How do you find the one you want?

Fortunately for all of us, some industrious companies have collected the names of millions of web pages and organized them. Each of these companies has written a program that takes some key words from you and hunts through their list of web pages and finds the ones that relate to your interests.

These searching programs are called search engines. You can use them by going to the web pages of these different companies. The most popular are www.yahoo.com, www.lycos.com, and others.

Most of them work the same way. On the web page is a small box where you must type your topic of interest. Next to the box is a button that says SEARCH or something similar. Type your word, for example GENEOLOGIES, and click on the SEARCH button. In a moment, you will be giving descriptions of dozens, maybe hundreds of web pages about your subject. Click on the underlined words to go to that page.

Always remember, if you get lost you can click on the BACK button or the HOME button.

What is Email?

Electronic mail is completely separate from the World Wide Web. It is a whole different part of the Internet.

Email is comprised of a software package (not the browser, that's just for the Web) that allows you to send and receive electronic mail to anyone else on the Internet … including people on Compuserve, America Online etc.

Electronic mail (or e-mail for short) is also a series of documents and addresses. These documents are a lot like real-world mail, in that they come from someone, go to someone, and they have to be sent from one to the other.

One difference between Internet e-mail and your national postal service is the time it takes to travel. The fastest real-world letter can go across country in a day. The average e-mail is delivered anywhere in the world in seconds. This is why Internet users refer to traditional postal service as snail mail.

Most Email programs are fairly intuitive. You have an "IN" box and an "OUT" box. The "IN" box holds messages that have been sent to you. To check to see if you have received new mail, click "file, check mail". New letters will appear in your "IN" box. To read them, simply double click on them.

To send a letter click on "new message", fill out the e-mail address of your intended recipient, fill out the subject line, and type in your letter. Click on the SEND button. If you're connected to the Internet, your message is traveling at the speed of light.

E-mail addresses are often hard to remember. If you receive a message from someone, it's usually easier to click on the REPLY button (which automatically prepares a message to the sender) than trying to type in their e-mail address.

Now you're ready to begin …

These simple concepts are enough for you to begin using the Internet. As you become more familiar with the look and feel of the World Wide Web and using e-mail, you will want to learn more. This information is readily available on the Web.

Learning to use the Internet is an on-going experience. All of us, even the experts, start with the simple things and move to the more advanced. With a little patience, your learning experience will be so much fun that you may not notice how much you are learning.

We're happy that you've selected Safe-t.net as part of your experience.

Good surfing!

 

 

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