Although there are literally dozens of things you can do on the Internet, ranging from videoconferencing to playing interactive games with people anywhere in the world, there are five basic Internet services that most people use most of the time. These five services are about all you'll need to access the wide variety of veterinary information available on the Internet.
E-mailElectronic mail. Used for communicating directly with other people on the Net.
Mailing Lists A service you subscribe to (usually free) to automatically receive information (by e-mail) about a particular subject of interest (see Example 1).
Newsgroups An electronic message board, where people post messages about a particular subject. There are more than 25,000 different newsgroups (see Example 2).
Chat Rooms Similar to newsgroups, except that they are live. Once you are "in" a chat room, you can use your keyboard to "chat" about a particular subject with other people who are also on-line at the same time (see Example 3).
World Wide Web The most popular service on the Internet. The Web is a graphics-based system for locating and retrieving information by means of simple "point-and-click" commands (similar to Windows or the Mac).
As mentioned, there are many other things you can do on the Internet. Some, such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Gopher, are older applications that are being overtaken by the easier-to-use Web. (In fact, with the newer versions of the Web browsers Netscape and Internet Explorer, you can access FTP sites over the Web—see Chapter 3.) Other services, such as videoconferencing, are newer and beyond the scope of this book.
The World Wide Web
In the old days of the Internet, all you could do was send and receive text (like e-mail). Then, in 1989, some physicists in Europe created the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) specifications on which the Web is based, to make information accessible to any user with a simple intuitive interface, on any computer, anywhere in the world. Hence, the nave World Wide Web. The first popular graphical user interface of the Web was. Created by Marc Andreessen and others at the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in 1993, Mosaic was originally only for UNIX but was later commercially rewritten as Netscape. With this development, it became possible to use "point-and-click" techniques to seamlessly move from one area to another on the Web. Because of the graphical interface, the Web could now handle more than text; it could also handle pictures, sounds, and even video clips and animation.
3.2.8. Millenium Lookback: the First 25 Years of Computer History
In the past 25 years the world of computing has moved from projects built in enthusiasts' garages, to innovations which touch our everyday lives. It's chicken and egg thing. Is computing driven forward by the need for faster machines to run the software we need or does software simply piggyback on the faster hardware, giving us more features and more real time applications? Or is the drive forward provided by the desire of users to carry out tasks on their computers?
Perhaps the best answer is that the great advances of the last 25 years have been a combination of all three. Where would we have been without the IBM PC, or the GUI operating system, or equally VisiCalc the first spreadsheet and the first killer application, giving business users a reason to buy a computer? On the other, hand, you could say that the whole computing revolution came about not because we needed computers, but because a few people were innovative and imaginative, driven by their own interests to create a computer that would sit on every desk and in every home.
The history of computing has as many twists and turns, as many miraculous inventions and as many fortunes won and lost as a Jeffrey Archer novel. The early history of computing was dominated by enthusiastic amateurs who were creative in their thinking because they were following up their own interest and were businesspeople almost by mistake. Take the cost of the MITS Altair 8800, regarded by many as the first personal computer, certainly the first to be commercially available and mass produced, which went on sale in 1975. MITS was eventually overtaken by those with better computers, but it did unwittingly set Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who wrote a version of BASIC to run on the machine, on the road to setting up Microsoft.
Looking back at the early machines, the spirit of experimentation was strong. Many of them -such as the Nascom 1, a British micro featured in the very first issue of PCW- had to be soldered together by the buyer and plugged into the TV. There were few universal standards in the early days with machines using a huge array of different processors and components. Every machine at this time was completely different, unlike the mass of near identical clones we see today. But out of small beginnings come great things. The first Apple was built in Steve Jobs' garage, after a meeting between Jobs and Wozniak at the Homebrew Computer Club, where each member built their own computer from their own trial and error designs. Even Intel started out as two people designing processors, producing each design in a matter of weeks. The original x86, the 8086 and the basis on which all current Intel processors are based, only took two men three weeks to perfect.
However, the biggest events in computing were a little better planned. If you consider some of the milestones in computer hardware, they have all fulfilled very specific goals. The Sinclair ZX-80 was intended as a machine that could be bought by everyone, and brought the price down to a spectacularly low $100 for a fully-built computer. Today you cannot even buy a handheld for that price. The BBC micro, by comparison, was built with the sole purpose of educating the general public about computers. It was commissioned by the BBC for a program it was putting together called Making the most of the micro and built by Acorn. This led to the predominance of Acorns in with Windows, it was Apple's turn to sue for copyright in 1988, but it too lose its case. Microsoft and IBM had also just parted company with a great deal of acrimony, after Microsoft refused to support OS/2, which was originally a joint project between the two companies. By that time, 1990, Microsoft had Windows 3.0 and was well on its way to dominance of the OS market. Since then, however, the release of Linux and BeOS has introduced a little healthy competition.
However, without decent applications to run on our operating systems, computers would still be merely toys for enthusiasts to tinker with. The change came thanks to what are known as killer applications: spreadsheets, word processors, browsers and email packages. VisiCalc was the first of these killer apps in 1979, a spreadsheet that allowed users to do their accounts on a computer. It was written by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, using a computer on a rime-share basis. Bricklin developed the functional design and documentation, while studying for an MBA and Frankston programmed at night when computer time was cheaper. When the product was first sold, it was just 25K long and cost $100.
The first version of VisiCalc was produced for the Apple II and proved a huge advantage for Apple. Versions for other platforms were produced, but it was eventually eclipsed by Lotus 1-2-3.
Another product that proved crucial for the fortunes of Apple was Aldus' PageMaker. Paul Brainerd's company produced the first version in 1985 and ensured that Macs, the first platform on which it was available, would be the machines of choice for every newspaper and magazine, and every repro and graphics house the world over.
Word processors made their first appearance in 1979 with WordStar and Apple Write I. We had to wait until 1983 for WordPerfect from SSI, followed swiftly by Microsoft's first version of Word. Other innovative pieces of software quickly appeared after this - 1986 saw the first versions of Laplink, Norton Utilities and Sidekick, the first contacts manager.
So you have your hardware arid your software, but effective work in any office cannot be conducted without networks. Ethernet was dreamed up in the Xerox PARC facility in 1973 and office networks came of age in 1985 when IBM launched Token Ring. However, the most interesting breakthroughs were happening in a very low-key manner.
The internet started out as a bomb-proof means of communication for the US military. It then came to be used by academics to exchange information about their research. As far back as 1982 TCP/IP was named as the protocol to support EUnet, Europe's forerunner to the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee, working at the Cern particle-physics lab, came up with the first spec for the world wide web in 1989 and in 1992 Demon started offering internet accounts.
We had to wait until 1993 for the first graphical browser, Mosaic, which added pictures and hyperlinks to the previously text-based web. The project at the University of Illinois was led by Marc Andreessen, who later founded Netscape, which in turn had a virtual monopoly in the browser market until Microsoft's entry in 1996.
Over the last 25 years of this century the rise of the computer has been a major force in shaping the economies and the way of life of most of the world. It has changed the way we do business, the way we communicate, and has affected the operation of everything from factory machinery to washing machines. Some pundits claim that the Internet is bringing about a greater change in the way we live than the Industrial Revolution did in the last century. Only time will tell, but let's hope the next 25 years bring as many exciting and indispensable machines.