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Getting Started on the Internet

3.2.7.1. What is the Internet?

If you and I hooked our computers together so that we could exchange information, then we would have — well, two computers hooked together. But if we added a few more people, along with their computers, then we could say we had a computer network. Now, let's say that in some other town another group hooked their computers together; then they would have a network, too. Now (and here's where it gets tricky), let's say that our group and their group connected these two networks together (with a phone line, for example) so that any of their computers could communicate with any of our computers, and vice versa. By doing so, we would have created a network of networks, and that is called an internet.

By the late 1960s, a lot of companies, universities, and government agencies were doing just that—hooking computer networks in one location to computer networks in other locations to share information. Of course, these separate internets had their own particular methods of communicating with each other and were not accessible to the public at large (some were even Top Secret). Through the years, some of these small internets connected with other small internets, making larger and larger internets. One particular internet, called NSFNET, was established in the mid 1980s by the National Science Foundation. NSFNET was used to hook major universities together so that they could share computing resources and information. It became extremely large, and soon universities were doing more and more of their research with computers, requiring ever more powerful computers and larger networks.

As the power of computers grew, so did their prices. Eventually, major research universities were no longer satisfied with their slower mainframe computers and most wanted to buy high-speed supercomputer (which also had super price tags of several million dollars each). Because the government was paying for most of this research, it. became increasingly concerned with the cost of buying each university its own supercomputer. Rather than buying expensive supercomputers for all these universities, the government saved huge sums of money by buying just a few of the costly devices and expanding NSFNET so that researchers everywhere could have access to the needed computing power over an internet. It was this expanded NSFNET that became what we today call the Internet. During the same period, corporations began connecting to the Internet, and commercial service providers started selling Internet accounts to the public. Today, NSFNET has largely been replaced by commercial networks run by MCI, Sprint, IBM, GTE, and others. In the United States, large commercial networks connect various regional networks together. In turn, the regional networks connect to universities, large companies, and local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). So, there you have it: the Internet is simply a large network of computer networks. And large is the operative term—it is estimated that more than 20 million computers are now interconnected through the Internet and more than 50 million people in North America alone now have access.


Date: 2015-12-18; view: 533


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