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The Internet or the Net is a collection of computers, all linked together, to share information globally. It was first developed in the U.S. by two universities who were both working on the same contract and wanted to share their data. They were faxing information back and forth and then retyping it until they came up with a piece of software called Unix to Unix Copy Program or UUCP.
The Internet was born and has mushroomed outward from that point.
There are 4 things that are necessary to "get on the net" with a full graphic interface (picture, sounds, animation, etc...).
  • A computer - preferably with a fast processor and lots of memory (64 Mb or more)
  • A modem - preferably 56,000 baud or high speed digital
  • Browser Software - often installed with your operating system or can be downloaded off the Internet
  • An ISP - An Internet Service Provider is a service that connects your home or office computer to the Internet
Once you have purchased an account with an ISP you will be given an account name. This is often your email address as well. You will also be given a password and should also be provided with instructions on how to change the password to a unique and personalized. The generic password provided with your account should be change to one of your own. Protect your password as you would any personal identification number (PIN) number.

The ISP will also provide information on how to configure your software. This can be simple or difficult depending on your Operating System. Once configured you simply run the software to connect your computer's modem to the ISP's modem, giving you access to the Internet.
There are a number of pieces of software that work together to connect you to the Internet.
The first and most complicated is the dialer or socket software. This is the software that makes the physical connection with the ISP's computer and the internet. This needs to be configured only once but you will need instructions from your ISP on how to do this as each ISP has a different setup.

The second piece is an Internet browser. This is the program that locates websites for you and allows users to maneuver around (surf) the World Wide Web and view web pages. Some of the more popular browsers are Mozilla Firefox Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer Mosaic was the first browser and most modern browsers still use the basic model that the first browser used. Some other browser are Opera, Safari, Netscape as well as dozens of others. Before graphic browsers Lynx was the most popular browser and is still available for text browsing. New browser are being developed and current browsers are constantly updating there programs. It is extremely important to update your browser every once in a while. Some ISP have a proprietary type of browser though most have given up this practice as it limits the users abilities to browse the Internet.
Type the url or web address of the website that you want to visit in the address bar of your browser and press Enter or click Go. Collect your favorite websites by adding them to your Favorites or Bookmarks. To go to a Favorite or Bookmark, click on the menu and click on the link.
Another piece of software is an email program Thunderbird Outlook Express Mail. This program controls sending, composing and receiving email. Most email programs can also be used to read postings on newsgroups.
Instructions for getting this software can be obtained from your ISP though you may have to download the newest version yourself.

There are many different ISPs. If you attend a university or college or belong to a military or government organization you can most likely get Internet access through your school or work. If not you will most likely buy access from a commercial provider.
Another option, if you are in a major center, is the Freenet. Many major cities have groups devoted to making the Internet accessible to the greater majority of people and create Freenets which allowing members free access to the Internet. They run on private and public donations. It is an excellent way of learning about the Internet in a helpful environment.
Once you are connected you will have access to Email, Newsgroups, the World Wide Web (WWW), File Transfer Protocol (ftp), Internet Relay Chat (irc), Search Engines, ICQ and other Internet Services.