The term "Internet," or "The Net" as it is commonly in known in the computer business, is best described as an assortment of over one thousand computer networks with each using a common set of technical transfers to create a worldwide communications medium. The Internet is changing, most profoundly, the way people conduct research and will in the near future be the chief source of mass information. No longer will a student have to rely on the local library to finish a research essay - anybody with a computer, a modem, and an Internet Service Provider can find a wealth of information on the Net. Anybody with a disease or illness and who has access to the Internet can obtain the vital information they are in need of. And, most importantly, businesses are flourishing at this present day because of the great potential the Internet holds.
First of all, for a person to even consider doing research on the Internet privately they must own a computer. A computer that is fast, reliable, and one that has a great deal of memory is greatly beneficial. A person also needs a modem (a device that transmits data from a network on the Internet to the user's computer). A modem's quality and speed are measured as something called a baud rate (how fast the modem transmits data in bits and kilobits - similar to grams and kilograms). A kilobit is a term simply used to describe the speed of a modem. For example, if somebody was to go out and purchase a 2400 baud modem, they would be buying a modem that transmits data 2400 kilobits per second which is definitely not the speed of a modem you want if your thinking of getting onto the Internet. The speeds of modems then double in the amount of kilobits that can be transmitted per second going from 4800 baud to 9600 baud and so on eventually getting up to 28800 baud (which is the fastest modem on the market right now). To surf the Internet successfully, a person will have to own a 9600 baud or higher, and with recent advancements the Internet has offered, the recommended speed is a 14400 kilobytes per second modem. A modem ranges in price, depending on the type of modem you want, the speed you need, and if it is an external or internal type, modems range from as low as $20 to as high as $300. If a person is unequipped with a computer most local libraries and nonprofit organizations provide Internet access where research can be done freely. Having Internet access in libraries is extremely beneficial for citizens who do not have access to the Internet as it gives them a chance to survey the vast amount of information available on the Net. And it is absolutely true the Internet is evolving as the greatest tool for searching and retrieving information on any particular subject.
Searching for information on The Internet using libraries and other nonprofit organizations can be a bit uncomfortable. For those people who already own a computer and a modem, and are ready to take hold of the highway of information the Internet provides, they might want to consider getting a commercial account with an Internet Service Provider or ISP (a company or organization that charges a monthly a fee and provides people with basic Internet services). Choosing your ISP may be the most difficult thing you must decide when trying to get on the Net. You must choose a service that has a local dial-in number so you do not end up with monstrous long distance charges. You must also choose an ISP that is reliable, fast, and has a good technical support team who are there when you're in trouble or have a problem. Typically, most ISP's charge around $25 to $30 per month and they allocate approximately 90 hours per month for you to use the service. You must be aware that even though there are some ISP's who charge only $10 to $15 per month for unlimited access, they may not meet up to your expectations; so it would be advisable to spend the extra $15 or $20 per month to get the best possible service. No matter how a person gets connected to The Internet, they will always be able to search for information about any topic that enters their minds. And it is the Internet that is changing the traditional methods of how people research specific topics. The tools that simplify the research processes make the Internet another invaluable method of obtaining information.
Most people who already know how to surf the Internet properly have no trouble finding information quickly and logically. However, for new people who are just starting to use the Net, the process can be quite troublesome. Some of the tools used for searching the Internet include Electronic Mail or E-mail which is a Messaging system that allows you to send documents, reports, and facsimiles to users on the Internet. Every user on the Internet has their own E-mail address and can send messages to anyone as long as they know another person's E-mail address.
One easy way of obtaining information about any topic is to join a mailing list where mail sent directly to one user will cause the information to be distributed to all members of that particular list. Mailing Lists are a fun and an easy way of gaining the important information a person may find on the Net. This also shows another way of how useful the Internet is and can be.
Another way a person can gain information through Electronic Mail is by people exchange messages publicly over the Net and these messages are sorted into different areas called News groups or often referred to as Usenet News. There are currently over 13,000 news groups for which any user with access to the Net can use. People send and receive messages about what kind of topic the news group is devoted to and is an excellent way of gaining information quickly and easily. Usenet news is also a way to receive up to the minute information about timely topics.
A further tool for exploring The Internet is a tool called gopher which is perhaps the most popular non-graphic way of searching the Internet. It provides interconnected links between files on different computers around the Net. Gopher provides access to an enormous amount of text files, documents, games, reference files, software utilities, and much more. Gopher is menu-oriented making it fun and easy to search for information because the only thing the user has to do is point and click.
The World Wide Web is a lot like gopher in that the only difference is that it uses a mixture of text and graphics to display a wide assortment of information. The Web is one of the most effective methods to provide information because of its visual impact and multimedia foundation. Many search tools are available on the Web to help the user more easily search for materials that are of interest to him or her.
There are some users who fret about having an information overload. They see themselves surfing a sea of random facts, information of varying quality, humour and entertainment references, people and places. The on-line world contains chaos as does the real world. Although some say the Internet World contains too much information for people to make sense of, there is tremendous proof people will find their place on the Internet with plenty of help. And everybody will grow up to make sense of the information available just as millions of users already do.