The Internet Explained
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 29 Jan 98 02:27:31 -0800
Subject: The Internet Explained
Forwarded-by: Eric Steese <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-by: S. Holt
Forwarded-by: "R. Chilson" <email@example.com>
From: "C. Redl" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Q. What, exactly, is the Internet?
A. The Internet is a worldwide network of university, government, business,
and private computer systems.
Q. Who runs it?
A. A 13-year-old named Jason.
Q. How can I get on the Internet?
A. The easiest way is to sign up with one of the popular commercial"on-line"
services, such as Prodigy, CompuServe, or America Online, which will give
you their program disks for free. Or, if you just leave your house
unlocked, they'll sneak in some night and install their programs on your
computer when you're sleeping. They really want your business.
Q. What are the benefits of these services?
A. The major benefit is that they all have simple, "user-friendly"
interfaces that enable you-even if you have no previous computer
experience-to provide the on-line services with the information they need
to automatically put monthly charges on your credit card bill forever.
Q. What if I die?
A. They don't care.
Q. Can't I cancel my account?
A. Of course! You can cancel your account at any time.
A. Nobody has ever been able to find out. Some of us have been trying for
years to cancel our on-line service accounts, but no matter what we do,
the charges keep appearing on our bills. We're thinking of entering the
Federal Witness Protection Program.
Q. What if I have children?
A. You'll want an anesthetic because it really hurts.
Q. No, I mean: What if my children also use my Internet account?
A. You should just sign your house and major internal organs over to the
on-line service right now.
Q. Aside from running up charges, what else can I do once I'm connected to
an on-line service?
A. Millions of things! An incredible array of things! No end of things!
Q. Like what?
A. You can ... ummmm ... er ... uh ... OK! I have one! You can chat.
Q. I can already chat. I chat with my friends.
A. Yes, but on the Internet, which connects millions of people all over the
entire globe, you can chat with total strangers, many of whom are boring
Q. Sounds great! How does it work?
A. Well, first you decide which type of area you wish to chat in. Some areas
are just for general chatting, and some are for specific interest groups,
such as Teens, Poets, Cat Lovers, Religious People, Gays, Gay Teens Who
Read Religious Poetry to Cats, and of course Guys Having Pointless
Arguments About Sports. At any given moment, an area can contain anywhere
from two to dozens of people, who use clever fake names such as "ByteMe2"
so nobody will know their real identities.
Q. What are their real identities?
A. They represent an incredible range of people, people of all ages, in all
kinds of fascinating fields from scientists to singers, from writers to
wranglers, from actors to athletes - you could be talking to almost
anybody on the Internet!
A. No. You re almost always talking to losers and hormone-crazed 13-year-old
boys. But they pretend to be writers, wranglers, scientists, singers, etc.
Q. What do people talk about in chat areas?
A. Most chat-area discussions revolve around the fascinating topic of who
is entering and leaving the chat area. A secondary, but equally
fascinating, topic is where everybody lives. Also, for a change of pace,
every now and then the discussion is interrupted by a hormone-crazed
13-year-old boy wishing to talk dirty to women. To give you an idea of
how scintillating the repartee can be, here's a re-creation of a typical
chat area dialogue (do not read this scintillating repartee while
operating heavy machinery):
LilBrisket: Hi everybody
Wazootyman: Hi LilBrisket
Toadster: Hi Bris
Lungftook: Hi B
LilBrisket: What's going on?
Toadster: Not much
Lungftook: Pretty quiet
Wazootyman: Anybody here from Texas?
UvulaBob: Hi everybody
Toadster: Hi UvulaBob
Lungftook: Hi Uvula
LilBrisket: Hi UB
Wazootyman: Hi U
UvulaBob: What's happening?
LilBrisket: Kinda slow
Toadster: Same old same old
Lungflook: Pretty quiet
Jason56243837: LilBrisket, take off your panties
LilBrisket: OK, but I'm a man
Wazootyman: UvulaBob, are you from Texas?
Lungftook: Well, gotta run.
Toadster.- 'bye, Lungflook
LilBrisket: Take 'er easy, Lungster
Wazootyman: See ya around, Lung
UvulaBob: So long, L
PolypMaster: Hi everybody
LilBrisket: Hey, PolypMaster
Toadster: Yo, Polyp
UvulaBob: Hi, P
PolypMaster: What's going on?
LilBrisket: Not much
Toadster: Pretty quiet
UvulaBob: Kinda slow ...
And so it goes in the chat areas, hour after riveting hour, where the
ideas flow fast and furious, and at any moment you could learn some
fascinating nugget of global-network information, such as whether or not
PolypMaster comes from Texas.
Q. I've heard that people sometimes use Internet chat areas to have
"cybersex." What exactly is that?
A. This is when two people send explicitly steamy messages to each other,
back and forth, back and forth, faster and faster, hotter and hotter,
faster and faster and hotter and harder and harder until OHHHH GODDDDDDDD
they suddenly find that they have a bad case of sticky keyboard, if you
get my drift.
Q. That's disgusting!
Q. Could you give an example?
<explicit dialogue deleted>
Q. Aside from chatting, what else can I do on the Internet?
A. You can join one of the thousands of forums wherein people, by posting
messages, discuss political topics of the day.
Q. Like what?
A. Barry Manilow.
Q. There's a forum for Barry Manilow?
A. There's a forum for everything.
Q. What happens on these forums?
A. Well, on the Barry Manilow forum, for example, fans post messages about
how much they love Barry Manilow, and other fans respond by posting
messages about how much they love Barry Manilow, too. And then sometimes
the forum is invaded by people posting messages about how much they hate
Barry Manilow, which in turn leads to angry countermessages and vicious
name-calling that can go on for months.
Q. Just like junior high school!
A. But even more pointless.
Q. Are there forums about sex?
A. Zillions of them.
Q. What do people talk about on those?
A. Barry Manilow.
Q. No, really.
A. OK, they talk about sex, but it is not all titillating. Often you'll find
highly scientific discussions that expand the frontiers of human
Q. It is a beautiful thing, the Internet.
A. It is.
Q. What is the "World Wide Web"?
A. The World Wide Web is the multimedia version of the Internet, where you
can get not only text but also pictures and sounds on a semi-infinite
range of topics. This information is stored on "Web pages," which are
maintained by companies, institutions, and individuals. Using special
software, you can navigate to these pages and read, look at, or listen
to all kinds of cool stuff.
Q. Wow! How can I get on the Web?
A. It's easy! Suppose you're interested in buying a boat from an Australian
company that has a Web page featuring pictures and specifications of its
various models. All you have to do is fire up your World Wide Web
software and type in the company's Web page address, which will probably
be an intuitive, easy-to-remember string of characters like this:
Q. What if I type a character wrong?
A. You will launch U.S. nuclear missiles against Norway.
A. But assuming you type in the correct address, you merely press Enter,
and there you are!
A. Sitting in front of your computer waiting for something to happen. It
could take weeks. Entire new continents can emerge from the ocean in the
time it takes for a Web page to show up on your screen. Contrary to what
you may have heard, the Internet does not operate at the speed of light;
it operates at the speed of the Department of Motor Vehicles. It might
be quicker for you to just go over to Australia and look at the boats in
Q. Does that mean that the World Wide Web is useless?
A. Heck no! If you're willing to be patient, you'll find that you can
utilize the vast resources of the Web to waste time in ways that you never
before dreamed possible.
Q. For example?
A. For example, recently I was messing around with a "Web search engine,"
which is a piece of software that lets you search all of cyberspace -
millions of documents for references to a specific word or group of
words. You can find pretty much everything that anybody has ever written
on the Internet about that topic; it's an incredibly powerful research
Q. That is truly beautiful.
A. Yes. And it's just one teensy little piece, one infinitesimally tiny
fraction, of the gigantic, pulsating, mutating, multiplying mass of stuff
out there on the Internet. Sooner or later, everything is going to be on
there somewhere. You should be on there, too. Don't be afraid! Be like
the bold explorer Christopher Columbus, (E-mail address:
ChrisCol@nina,pinta&santamaria.ahoy) setting out into uncharted waters,
fearful of what you might encounter, but also mindful of the old
inspirational maritime saying: "If you don't leave the land, then you'll
probably never have a chance to get scurvy and develop anemia, spongy
gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes." So come on! Join me and
millions of others on this exciting CyberFrontier, with its limitless
possibilities for the enhancement of knowledge and the betterment of the
human race! Wazootyman is waiting for you.
© 1998 Peter Langston