Understanding Computers
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  Getting Caught Up In The Internet
Most of our clients use their computers for three things: word processing, games, and the exploring the internet. Actually, that's all I ever use it for myself. Lynne does all the bookkeeping, otherwise the Receiver General would still be waiting. Most of our clients already know how to play FreeCell or write a letter, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about the internet. 1
The word net is short for network. You have a network any time two or more computers are connected together with something other than duct tape. The internet is millions of interconnected networks, Inter Net, get it? Good.
Connecting to the internet connects your computer to a special computer, called a server, that belongs to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Your ISP's server is connected to other servers and those servers, in turn, are connected to others. In the end, everybody is connected to everybody. The theory is simple, the execution complex.
The only way computers can communicate is if they agree on how to do it. Protocols make it happen. Protocols determine whose turn it is to send information and whether the information received is the same information that was sent. Sending and receiving email, transferring files, chat rooms, and viewing web pages all use different protocols.
What most of us call the internet is really only one part of the big picture, the World Wide Web (WWW). The web uses the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) to send and receive documents called web pages. This is why web page addresses just about always start with http://www. By the way, nerd-speak for internet addresses, including web pages, is Universal Resource Locator (URL).
Web pages are composed in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). HTML contains information about layout, graphics, and fonts, as well as the actual text. You can view the HTML code of most web pages by right-clicking your mouse on an empty part of the page and selecting View Source. Take my word for it, the source code is nowhere near as entertaining as the web page it creates. That's why we have browsers.
Browsers convert HTML code into what you see on your screen. They also understand URLs and how to connect to them. The most commonly used browsers are Netscape and Internet Explorer, but there are dozens of others.
The first page a browser loads when it is launched is called the home page. Since the internet is largely a commercial venture, everybody wants to make their web page your home page. That way you'll see it more often. Visit our Tutorials page http://www.understandingcomputers.ca to find out how to select your own home page.
So you see, the internet is never inside your computer. It isn't your home page, your browser, or your ISP. It's even bigger than the world wide web. The internet is an huge interconnected network of computers that you can use in countless ways. Cool.
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