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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:
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.
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.
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