Who hasn't heard about the internet? No one! Unless, of course, you have been living in a cave for the past decade! The internet is the crowning achievement of the Information Age (which is what we call this age we live in). It has completely revolutionized how we communicate and how we live.
But what exactly is this thing we call the internet? In a nutshell, the internet is the interconnection of computers around the world. It allows users of these computers to communicate in a variety of ways: through email, streaming conferencing, website information, file sharing, and others.
For you to connect to the internet, you will need a computer and a connection to an ISP (Internet Service Provider). Your ISP will provide you with a connection and the means to connect to the internet.
The internet started out as a project of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense), which was commissioned by the Pentagon to look into the uses of networking for military purposes in 1960. From there, the internet was steadily developed to benefit the whole populace.
In the beginning, the internet could only chug along at a low data transfer rate. Today, ISPs offer speeds from 56 kilobytes per second to 10 megabytes per second or more! This allows people to transfer more data which facilitates better communication.
The internet impacts so much of our daily lives that it has become indispensable to so many people and businesses.
Uses of the Internet
1. E-mail – Gone are the days when people had to wait weeks or even months to receive postal mail! With the internet, an email can be sent and reach its destination instantaneously! E-mails have made the world a smaller place, allowing people separated by great distances to correspond.
2. Instant Messaging, Chat Rooms – Services such as AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Skype allow people to send messages instantaneously, much like a phone conversation, but using written messages. There are also "virtual rooms" on the internet facilitated by services developed for this reason. These "rooms" allow many users to chat using written messages.
3. Webpages – Webpages are like virtual homes on the internet. They allow people to post documents on the internet that are easy to browse through and navigate. As time haspassed by, webpages have gained more functionality. Today you can download files, submit files and comments, and do all your shopping online.
Webpages serve many functions: some promote businesses, some are purely informational, and some become money making vehicles. The internet spawned what we now call e-commerce. This involves purchasing over the internet. You can even use online payment methods such as PayPal, Paydot and other methods.
4. Streaming Services and File Sharing – The internet also allows file sharing. This allows you to share files with other users. These files may be large or small. Streaming services allow you to receive data such as radio feeds, or even video feeds over the internet.
A Brave New World
In the past, the internet was limited to large institutions. Now residential internet has become more affordable. Today's technology even allows mobile internet! You could surf the internet from a mobile device such as a cell phone, or you could surf from your laptop in areas that offer Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity). The internet makes instant communication with the rest of the world possible. In the next few years we will see much more.