I. About the Internet

What is the Internet?

The Internet is a "global network" of networks. The Internet requires a "Local Network" computer to connect the various users and route the various requests to the Internet destinations. Local network computers are run by Internet Service Providers. No single company or group "owns" or runs the Internet; every computer connected to the Internet is responsible only for its own part of the Internet.

Computers connected to the Internet can contain anything that can be put into digital form. This includes databases, library catalogs, government archives, messages on every conceivable topic, photographs, movies, and sound recordings.

How to Access the Internet

To access the Internet, you need a computer with communications software, a modem, and an Internet account. An Internet account can be acquired in several ways. One way is to find out if your organization/company provides Internet accounts. Ask your computer/information systems staff if they can provide you with access to the Internet. You can also get an Internet account through a number of Internet service providers which allow you to use their connections to the Internet (for a fee). To find out about Internet service providers, check magazines such as "Internet World"(http://www.internetworld.com/), "PCWorld" (http://www.pcworld.com/home/index.phtml), "Online" (http://www.online-magazine.com/index.htm), "MacWorld" (http://www.macworld.com/index.shtml), and "Byte" (http://www.byte.com/), which are available at most newsstands and local libraries.

To become familiar with using the Internet, the publishing industry has produced several books on getting access to and using the Internet. See the Selected Resources for Additional Information section for a sampling of Internet-related books and magazines which may be helpful; you can also look in the computer section of your local library or bookstore.

Software Packages and Services

In this Guide, we describe the various Internet services and how to use them in a manner general enough so that you can apply this information to the type of software and service you are using to access the Internet. However, this means that we cannot provide you with step-by-step instructions for accessing the Internet for each type of software or service. We recommend that you read the materials (both paper and electronic) that you received when you set up your Internet access account. We also recommend speaking with your service's Help Desk or System Administrator if you encounter problems along the way. They are familiar with the software you are using, and can most efficiently guide you through the steps to carry out a particular function. There are also several books available at your local public library and bookstores to assist you in accessing the Internet. Spend some time browsing the shelves and select the book that is right for you based on the type of computer and access software you are using.

How to Read an Internet Address

The addresses in this guide are given as URLs. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, and is the format an Internet address takes when used by the World Wide Web. URLs are a fairly standard, widely recognized way to present addresses, and can be broken down into three basic parts: the type of tool or resource, the address of the site, and the location of the file on the site. URLs look like this:

http://www.cdc.gov/diseases/hivqa.html

URLs are read from left to right. The first section, the part which ends with ://, tells the Web browser (and you) what type of tool you will be looking at. The tool type in this example is http:// which tells us that it is a World Wide Web site.

These are the other major tool types:

The section between the tool type and the first single slash (/) is the address of the site. In our examples, this is the address: www.cdc.gov.

Anything after the first single slash is the path to the file. In our example, "/diseases/" is the directory path and "hivqa.html" is the filename.