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By Adam Gaffin Senior Reporter, Middlesex News, Framingham, Mass., @email{adamg@world.std.com}

This book will help you join the global village known as Cyberspace or the Net. Millions of people around the world already spend parts of their lives in this land without frontiers. With this book, you will be able to use the Net to:

And you will have become the newest member of this ever growing community. If you stay and contribute, the Net will be richer for it -- and so will you.

But it will take a sense of adventure, a willingness to learn and an ability to take a deep breath every once in awhile.

Visiting the Net today is a lot like journeying to a foreign country. You know there are many things to see and do, but everything at first will seem so, well, foreign.

When you first arrive, you won't be able to read the street signs. You'll get lost. If you're unlucky, you may even run into some natives who'd just as soon you went back to where you came from. If this weren't enough, the entire country is constantly under construction; every day, it seems like there's something new for you to figure out.

Here's where you take a deep breath. Fortunately, most of the natives are actually friendly. In fact, the Net actually has a rich tradition of helping out visitors and newcomers. With few written guides for ordinary people, the Net has grown in large part one person at a time -- if somebody helps you learn your way around, it's almost expected you'll repay the favor some day by helping somebody else.

So when you connect, don't be afraid to ask for help. You'll be surprised at how many people will try to direct you around. And that leads to another fundamental thing to remember:

You can't break the Net!

As you travel the Net, your computer may freeze, your screen may erupt into a mass of gibberish. You may think you've just disabled a million-dollar computer somewhere -- or even your own personal computer. Sooner or later, this feeling happens to everyone -- and likely more than once. But the Net and your computer are hardier than you think, so relax. You can no more break the Net than you can the phone system. You are always in the driver's seat. If something goes wrong, try again. If nothing at all happens, you can always disconnect. If worse comes to worse, you can turn off your computer. Then take a deep breath. And dial right back in. Leave a note for the person who runs the computer to which you've connected to ask for advice. Try it again. Persistence pays.

First links

In the 1960s, researchers began experimenting with linking computers to each other and to people through telephone hook-ups, using funds from the U.S Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).

ARPA wanted to see if computers in different locations could be linked using a new technology known as packet switching, which had the promise of letting several users share just one communications line. Previous computer networking efforts had required a line between each computer on the network, sort of like a train track on which only one train can travel at a time. The packet system allowed for creation of a data highway, in which large numbers of vehicles could essentially share the same lane. Each packet was given the computer equivalent of a map and a time stamp, so that it could be sent to the right destination, where it would then be reassembled into a message the computer or a human could use.

This system allowed computers to share data and the researchers to exchange electronic mail, or e-mail. In itself, e-mail was something of a revolution, offering the ability to send detailed letters at the speed of a phone call.

As this system, known as ARPANet, grew, some enterprising college students (and one in high school) developed a way to use it to conduct online conferences. These started as science-oriented discussions, but they soon branched out into virtually every other field, as people realized the power of being able to ``talk'' to hundreds, or even thousands, of people around the country.

In the 1970s, ARPA helped support the development of rules, or protocols, for transferring data between different types of computer networks. These ``internet'' (from ``internetworking'') protocols made it possible to develop the worldwide Net we have today.

By the close of the 1970s, links developed between ARPANet and counterparts in other countries. The world was now tied together in a computer web.

In the 1980s, this network of networks, which became known collectively as the Internet, expanded at a phenomenal rate. Hundreds, then thousands, of colleges, research companies and government agencies began to connect their computers to this worldwide Net. Some enterprising hobbyists and companies unwilling to pay the high costs of Internet access (or unable to meet stringent government regulations for access) learned how to link their own systems to the Internet, even if ''only'' for e-mail and conferences. Some of these systems began offering access to the public. Now anybody with a computer and modem -- and persistence -- could tap into the world.

In the 1990s, the Net grows at exponential rates. Some estimates are that the volume of messages transferred through the Net grows 20 percent a month. In response, government and other users have tried in recent years to expand the Net itself. Once, the main Net ``backbone'' in the U.S. moved data at 1.5 million bits per second. That proved too slow for the ever increasing amounts of data being sent over it, and in recent years the maximum speed was increased to 45 million bits per second. Even before the Net was able to reach that speed, however, Net experts were already figuring out ways to pump data at speeds of up to 2 billion bits per second -- fast enough to send the entire Encyclopedia Britannica across the country in just one or two seconds.

How it works

The worldwide Net is actually a complex web of smaller regional networks.

To understand it, picture a modern road network of trans-continental superhighways connecting large cities. From these large cities come smaller freeways and parkways to link together small towns, whose residents travel on slower, narrow residential ways.

The Net superhighway is the high-speed Internet. Connected to this are computers that user a particular system of transferring data at high speeds. In the U.S., the major Internet ``backbone'' theoretically can move data at rates of 45 million bits per second (compare this to the average home modem, which has a top speed of roughly 2400 bits per second). This internetworking ``protocol'' lets network users connect to computers around the world.

Connected to the backbone computers are smaller networks serving particular geographic regions, which generally move data at speeds around 1.5 million bits per second.

Feeding off these in turn are even smaller networks or individual computers.

Nobody really knows how many computers and networks actually make up this Net. Some estimates say there are now as many as 5,000 networks connecting nearly 2 million computers and more than 15 million people around the world. Whatever the actual numbers, however, it is clear they are only increasing.

There is no one central computer or even group of computers running the Internet -- its resources are to be found among thousands of individual computers. This is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The approach means it is virtually impossible for the entire Net to crash at once -- even if one computer shuts down, the rest of the network stays up. But thousands of connected computers can also make it difficult to navigate the Net and find what you want. It is only recently that Net users have begun to develop the sorts of navigational tools and ``maps'' that will let neophytes get around without getting lost.

The vast number of computers and links between them ensure that the network as a whole will likely never crash and means that network users have ready access to vast amounts of information. But because resources are split among so many different sites, finding that information can prove to be a difficult task -- especially because each computer might have its own unique set of commands for bringing up that information.

While the Internet was growing, parallel networks developed. Large commercial services such as CompuServe and GEnie began to offer network services to individuals. Phone companies developed their own electronic-mail services. Some universities started their own international network. Hobbyists began networks such as Fidonet for MS-DOS computers and UUCP for Unix machines.

Today, almost all of these parallel networks are becoming connected. It is now possible to send electronic mail from CompuServe to MCIMail, from Internet to Fidonet, from Bitnet to CompuServe. In some cases, users of one network can now even participate in some of the public conferences of another.

But the Net is more than just a technological marvel. It is human communication at its most fundamental level. The pace may be a little quicker when the messages race around the world in a few seconds, but it's not much different from a large and interesting party. You'll see things in cyberspace that will make you laugh; you'll see things that will anger you. You'll read silly little snippets and new ideas that make you think. You'll make new friends and meet people you wish would just go away.

Major network providers continue to work on ways to make it easier for users of one network to communicate with those of another. Work is underway on a system for providing a universal ``white pages'' in which you could look up somebody's electronic-mail address, for example. This connectivity trend will likely speed up in coming years as users begin to demand seamless network access, much as telephone users can now dial almost anywhere in the world without worrying about how many phone companies actually have to connect their calls.

And as it becomes easier to use, more and more people will join this worldwide community we call the Net. Being connected to the Net takes more than just reading conferences and logging messages to your computer; it takes asking and answering questions, exchanging opinions -- getting involved.

If you chose to go forward, to use and contribute, you will become a ``citizen of Cyberspace.'' If you're reading these words for the first time, this may seem like an amusing but unlikely notion -- that one could ``inhaibit'' a place without physical space. But put a mark beside these words. Join the Net and actively participate for a year. Then re-read this passage. It will no longer seem so strange to be a ``citizen of Cyberspace.'' It will seem like the most natural thing in the world.


The following people, whether they know it or not, helped put this together. My thanks, especially to Nancy!

Rhonda Chapman, Jim Cocks, Tom Czarnik, Christopher Davis, David DeSimone, Jeanne deVoto, Phil Eschallier, Nico Garcia, Joe Granrose, Joe Ilacqua, Jonathan Kamens, Peter Kaminski, Thomas A. Kreeger, Leanne Phillips, Nancy Reynolds, Helen Trillian Rose, Barry Shein, Jennifer ``Moira'' Smith, Gerard van der Leun, Scott Yanoff.


Steven Levy, @fyi{Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution}, (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984). describes the early culture and ethos that ultimately resulted in the Internet and Usenet.

John Quarterman, @fyi{The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide} (Digital Press, 1990) is an exhaustive look at computer networks and how they connect with each other.

@fyi{FYI on Where to Start - A Bibliography of Internetworking Information}, by Tracy LaQuey, Joyce K. Reynolds, Karen Roubicek, Mary Stahl and Aileen Yuan (August, 1990), is an excellent list of articles, books, newsletters and other sources of information about the Internet. It's available via ftp from @host{nic.ddn.mil} in the rfc directory as rfc1175.txt (see section FTP (Mining the Net, part II) for information on getting documents through FTP).

@vskip 0pt plus 1filll @flushright ``Another Glitch in the Call ------- ------ -- --- ----

We don't need no indirection We don't need no flow control No data typing or declarations Did you leave the lists alone?

Hey! Hacker! Leave those lists alone!

Chorus: All in all, it's just a pure-LISP function call. All in all, it's just a pure-LISP function call.''

--- Anonymous Lisp Guru @fyi{Sung to the tune of `Another Brick in the Wall' by Pink Floyd} @end flushright