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A primer for those who want to join the on-line revolution

Written on December 11, 1996 by Robert & Karen Vanderzweerde

Appeared in Greenmaster Magazine on February/March and April/May 1997

Let's go surfin' now
Everybody's learnin' how
Come on a safari with me!

The Beach Boys may have been thirty years ahead of their time, but the sentiment in their song Surfing Safari is the tune of the nineties.   There is a lot of hype and buzz about the Internet, and its time to explore just what it has to offer you.

This is the first of a two part article on the Internet.  Part One offers you a general overview of the "Net", and Part Two will look at each of the major services in more depth.

What is the Internet?

In simple terms, the Internet is a collection of computers around the world that talk to each other; a global network of computer networks.  Each network is called a DOMAIN; each DOMAIN has a name that uniquely identifies it.  When someone gives you their Internet address, part of the address will contain the DOMAIN NAME of that network.  Because these names must be unique in the world, there has been a rush during the last year to register DOMAIN NAMES by corporations and other large users before the name they want is used.  You may have heard stories of well-known corporations forced to pay large sums of money to purchase their name because someone else registered the name first.

The computer networks are joined together by telephone lines, high speed dedicated transmission lines, satellites, microwave links, and fibre optic cables.   Your message passes from local computer to computer to computer until it finally reaches its destination, even to the other side of the world.  Driving from Ottawa to Toronto, there are several alternative routes passing through different towns; similarly, messages can pass along a variety of networks to reach the person you want.

Each person who uses a network is a USER; each USER has a name that uniquely identifies him/her/it (the USER-ID).

What can you do on the Internet?

You can share information.  Sometimes you can share computing resources, if the DOMAIN network you want to use permits this.

What services are available on the Internet?

  • Electronic Mail (E-MAIL): send messages to other users

  • News Groups (USENET): become a member of a newsgroup

  • File Transfers (FTP and HTTP): transfer files (text, pictures, programs) to other users

  • Connect or Log-in to Other Computer Systems (TELNET): use someone else's computer system

  • World Wide Web (WWW): view a collection of linked, multi-media documents

There are other services, but these 5 are the main ones.

What do I have to do to use the Internet?

You must be able to connect to one of the computer networks.  There are three ways to do this:

  1. You can make your computer or computer network a permanent part of the Internet.  This is an expensive proposition; typically only large companies or other organizations (universities, government) can afford to do this.

  2. You can set up an account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP).   Your computer must be equipped with a modem so you can use a telephone line to dial up to your ISP.  This is the cheapest, easiest, and slowest connection to the Internet, but it works for most people.  You pay for the time you are connected to the Internet; many ISP's offer a package with unlimited access for a flat monthly fee.   Support and help are limited, although your ISP will provide the software you need to get started.  If you think of using the Internet as traveling to Europe, this is travel on the do-it-yourself plan.

  3. You can use an On-line Service (such as America On-Line, CompuServe, Microsoft Network, etc.).  Your computer must be equipped with a modem so you can use a telephone line to dial up to your service.  On-line Services are considered to be part of the "outernet" -- they let you use some of the Internet Services but offer other services available only to their subscribers.  Most do not offer an "unlimited use" package -- you sign up for a specified number of hours, and pay hourly for all excess use.  Generally, more help and support is provided.   On-line Services usually have proprietary software which limits what you can do and how you can do it, although this is changing as use of the Internet grows and develops.   Continuing our travel analogy, this is travel to Europe on a fully guided tour.

In the November 19, 1996 issue of PC Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 20, the editors reviewed each of the major US ISP's and On-line Services.  If you are thinking of signing up, you would find their explanations of the features of each helpful for when you shop.  You can usually find back issues of this magazine at the library, or if you can connect to the Internet, visit their website at

Once you have a way to connect to the Internet, your service provider will provide you with your address so other users can send mail to you.
In technical terms, your address is your UNIFORM RESOURCE LOCATOR (URL).  Usually, your service provider will also provide the software you will need to send and receive mail, and browse the Internet.  The browser program provided may have limited features; you can use it access the Microsoft site ( to download Explorer (free) or the Netscape site ( to download Navigator (free 30 day trial).  At the moment, Explorer (the challenger) and Navigator (with over 80% of the market) are the two hot browsers.

The Internet (Part 2)

Are you ready to SURF?  In our last column, we provided a brief overview of the Internet and how it works; this time we are going to explore some of the services in more detail.  So fire up your computer, start your modem, and let's explore what's out there!

How does E-MAIL work?

With your computer connected to the Internet, you type your message,
and when it is ready, provide your computer with the exact address of the person to whom you want to send your message.  Remember that the other person must have an E-MAIL account!  E-MAIL works like mail delivered by the Post Office ("snail mail"), only it usually gets delivered faster.  You can also send your message to a list of users.  Except for the cost of connecting to the Internet, E-MAIL is cheaper than a fax or long-distance phone call  because you do not have to pay long distance charges to send your message.

For example, you can send E-MAIL to CGSA at the address  E-MAIL addresses follow the format: userid@domainname.  The userid may be a combination of a person's names (common combinations are first name and last initial or first initial and last name).  You need to know the exact way the name is to be entered, or the mail won't go through.  For example, if you use upper case letters when lower case is specified, your mail may not be delivered.

Like mail delivered by the Post Office, with E-MAIL you must check your mailbox regularly.

Want to practice?  Send us some feedback on how you like these articles, what else you would find useful, or just send a message to say hello.  Send the message to, and your message will be sent on to us.  We'd love to hear from you.

There are issues of reliability and security in the use of E-MAIL.   If you need to know your E-MAIL was received, you should request that they send back confirmation of receipt.  Because the message is passed from computer network to computer network until it reaches the specified user, there is the possibility of trouble along the way.  E-MAIL can also be intercepted, so if the message must remain private, you might want to consider encrypting (coding) the message.

Besides sending messages to friends, family and business associates, you can also add your name to INTEREST LISTS and NEWSGROUPS.

An INTEREST LIST is a mailing list of people with interest in a specific topic.  If your name is on the list, you will get an E-MAIL message every time someone sends a message to the INTEREST LIST.  You can "subscribe" and "unsubscribe" (cancel your subscription) by following the instructions given by the system operator.  Typically this involves sending an E-MAIL message to the system operator with the word subscribe or unsubscribe and your Internet address.

What is USENET?

NEWSGROUPS are similar to INTEREST GROUPS.  Mail messages are organized by topic, and are called ARTICLES or POSTINGS.  POSTINGS are stored on one of the DOMAIN computers, called a NEWS SERVER.  You review the list of POSTINGS and decide which ones you want to read -- they are not automatically sent to you.  You can copy the ones you want onto your own computer, and you can send POSTINGS to the NEWSGROUP.  Sometimes these groups are called USENETS.

For example, there is a NEWSGROUP of information and queries from golfers called  When I read the messages in this group, there were queries about golf technique, information on used items for sale or wanted, and stories about problems experienced with some golf courses.

There are NEWSGROUP searching indexes; there are thousands of groups, and the challenge is finding ones which are useful for you.

How do I use File Transfer?

You may read of two different types of file transfer.  There is the FILE TRANSFER PROTOCOL (FTP) which is used to send programs, graphic images, and text files from one computer to another.  There is also the HYPERTEXT TRANSFER PROTOCOL (HTTP) which will also let you send sound and video from one computer to another.  It is HTTP that makes the WORLD WIDE WEB possible.

File transfer (either FTP or HTTP) is the tool you need to help search for files that you want.  Remember that information is spread on computers around the world; locating information without knowing the exact name of the file containing it, and the computer on which it is stored, is challenging!

Since files, especially those with graphics, video, or sound, are large, they are usually compressed (shrunk) before they are sent so they take less time to transmit.  Once you receive the file, you will usually have to decompress (un-shrink) it.  There are special programs (e.g. PKZIP, WINZIP) that shrink and un-shrink files.

What is the WORLD WIDE WEB (WWW)?

The WORLD WIDE WEB is a collection of linked multi-media documents stored on the Internet.  Each "screen" displayed is called a PAGE.  A variety of organizations and individuals have WEB PAGES set up to provide information, sell products and services, advertise, and provide after sales or technical support.  The collection of WEB PAGES for an organization is called their WEB SITE.  The first PAGE is called the HOME PAGE, and provides a "table of contents" for the rest of the WEB SITE.  The DOMAIN NAME identifies the WEB SITE from other WEB SITES.  PAGES and SITES are "linked" together to make it easy to move from one to another.

To access the WWW, you need a connection to the Internet and software to browse.  As a rule, you click on items on the screen of interest to you, and the software will take you there.  Over a dial-up phone line, the transfer of data from the WEB SITE to your computer can be slow, especially if there are pictures, video or sound, so be patient.  The information may be coming from around the world!   Sometimes you may need to try something a few times for it to work, so don't give up the first time -- it might not be you!

To get to a particular HOME PAGE, you need to know the name of the WEB SITE.  The name will usually begin with http://www.  The "http" specifies the method of file transfer (hypertext transfer protocol) which is the protocol necessary if sound or video is involved.  The "www" indicates that the service you seek is the World Wide Web.  The "www" will be followed by the desired organization's DOMAIN NAME.  In order to access the WEB SITE, you need the exact name, typed into the computer with all the correct colons, slashes and periods.

There are index services available to help you locate WEB SITES of interest.  One such index (there are about 10) is the WEB SITE:

By clicking through the listings at the Yahoo Web Site, first on sports, then on golf, you will find over 30 references to golf-related Web Sites, including the GCSAA site (   You can click and go directly to the Web Site of your choice from the Yahoo index.   The December 6, 1996 issue of PC Magazine has a 4 page "cheat sheet" with the address of similar tools to help you search the WORLD WIDE WEB, USEGROUPS, and various other services.

While you can always find a site through the indexing services, if you find your connections slow, keep a list of your favourite sites so you can skip the index and go directly to the site.

We hope you have fun browsing on the Web.  There are thousands of interesting sites -- one of my favourites is   This service searches to determine if any dormant bank accounts are listed in your name.  If a match is found, instructions will tell you how to claim your money!   Let us know if you find any sites of particular interest to golf superintendents; we'll publish the addresses in our articles.

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