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Internet Terms
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56K Line - A Digital phone line connection (leased line) capable of carrying 56,000 bits-per-second. At this speed, a megabyte will take about 3 minutes to transfer. This is 4 times as fast as 14,400bps modem. See also: Bandwidth, T-1

Archie - A tool (software) for finding files stored on anonymous FTP sites. You need to know the exact file name or a sub-string of it.

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) – this is the de facto world-wide standard for the code numbers used by computers to represent all the upper and lower-case Latin letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. There are 128 standard ASCII codes each of which can be represented by a 7 digit binary number:  0000000 through 1111111.

Backbone - A high-speed line or series of connections that form a major pathway within a network. The term is relative as a backbone in a small network will likely be much smaller than many non-backbone lines in a large network. See also: Network

Bandwidth - How much “stuff” you can see through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second. A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 15,000 bits in one second. Full-motion full-screen video would require roughly 10,000,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression. See also: 56K Line, Bit, T-1

BBS (Bulletin Board System) – A computerized meeting and announcement system that allows people to carry on discussions, upload and download files, and make announcements without the people being connected to the computer at the same time. There are many thousands (millions?) of BBS’s around the world, most are very small, running on a single IBM clone PC with 1 or 2 phone lines. Some are very large and the line between a BBS and a system like CompuServe gets crossed at some point, but it is not clearly drawn.

Binhex (Binary Hexadecimal) – a method for converting non-text files (non-ASCII) into ASCII. This is needed because Internet e-mail can only handle ASCII. See also: ASCII

Bit (Binary digit) – A single digit number in base-2, in other words, either a 1 or a zero. The smallest unit of computerized data. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits-per-second. See also: Bandwidth, Byte, Kilobyte, Megabyte

BITNET (Because It’s Time Network) – A network of educational sites separate from the Internet, but e-mail is freely exchanged between BITNET and the Internet. Listservs, the most popular form of e-mail discussion groups, originated on BITNET. BITNET machines are IBM VMS machines, and the network is probably the only international network that is shrinking.

Browser - A client program (software) that is used to look at various kinds of Internet resources. See also: Client, URL, WWW

Byte - A set of Bits that represent a single character. Usually there are 8 or 10 bits in a Byte, depending on how the measurement is being made.

Client - A software program that is used to contact and obtain data from a Server software program on another computer, often across a great distance. Each Client program is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of Server programs, and each Server requires a specific kind of Client. See also: Server

Cyberspace - Term originated by author William Gibson in his novel “Neuromancer”, the word Cyberspace is currently used to describe the whole range of information resources available through computer networks.

Domain Name - The unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names always have 2 or more parts, separated by dots. The part on the left is the most specific, and the part on the right is the most general. A given machine may have more than one Domain Name but a given Domain Name points to only one machine. Usually, all of the machines on a given network will have the same thing as the right-hand portion of their Domain Names, e.g. , , and so on. It is also possible for a Domain Name to exist but not be connected to an actual machine. This is often done so that a group or business can have an Internet e-mail address without having to establish a real Internet site. In these cases, some real Internet machine must handle the mail on behalf of the listed Domain Name. See also: IP Number

E-mail (Electronic Mail) – Messages, usually text, sent from one person to another via computer. E-mail can also be sent automatically to a large number of address (Mailing List). See also: Listserv, Mail list

Ethernet - A very common method of networking computers in a LAN. Ethernet will handle about 10,000,000 bits-per-second and can be used with almost any kind of computer. See also: Bandwidth, LAN

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) – FAQ’s are documents that list and answer the most common questions on a particular subject. There are hundreds of FAQ’s on subject as diverse as Pet Grooming and Cryptography. FAQ’s are usually written by people who have tired of answering the same question over and over.

FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data Interface) – A very common method of moving files between two Internet sites. FTP is a special way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of retrieving and/or sending files. There are many Internet sites that have established publicly accessible repositories of material that can be obtained using FTP, by logging in using the account name “anonymous”, thus these sites are called “anonymous ftp servers”.

Finger - An Internet software tool for locating people on other Internet sites. Finger is also sometimes used to give access to non-personal information, but the most common use is to see if a person has an account at a particular Internet site. Many sites do not allow incoming Finger requests, but many do.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) - the protocol used on the Internet for sending files. See also: Internet

Gateway - The technical meaning is a hardware or software set-up that translates between two dissimilar protocols, for example Prodigy has a gateway that translates between its internal, proprietary e-mail format and Internet e-mail format. Another, sloppier meaning of gateway is to describe any mechanism for providing access to another system, e.g. AOL might be called a gateway to the Internet.

Gopher - A widely successful method of making menus of material available over the Internet. Gopher is a Client and Server style program, which requires that the user have a Gopher Client program. Although Gopher spread rapidly across the globe in only a couple of years, it is being largely supplanted by Hypertext, also know as WWW (World Wide Web). There are still thousands of Gopher Servers on the Internet and we can expect they will remain for a while. See also: Client, Server, WWW, Hypertext

Host - Any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as WWW and USENET. See also: Node, Network

HTML (HyperText Markup Language) – The coding language used create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. HTML looks a lot like old-fashioned typesetting code, where you surround a block of text with codes that indicate how it should appear , additionally, in HTML you can specify that a block of text, or a word, is “linked” to another file on the internet. HTML files are meant to be viewed using a World Wide Web Client program, such as Netscape. See also: HTTP, Hypertext, WWW

HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) - HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions Web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands. For example, when you enter a URL in your browser, this actually sends an HTTP command to the Web server directing it to fetch and transmit the requested Web page. See also: Browser, Server, URL

Hyperlink - A hyperlink is a logical link between two related pieces of information in WEBspace. It allows a browsing user the ability to rapidly jump from idea in a non-linear motion. It is at the core of hypertext technology, and closely mimics the way humans think.

Hypertext - Generally, any text that contains “links” to other documents - words or phrases in the document that can be chosen by a reader and which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed.

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) – A shorthand appended to a comment written in an online forum, IMHO indicates that the writer is aware that they are expressing a debatable view, probably on a subject already under discussion. One of many such shorthands in common use online, especially in discussion forums.

IP Address - The numeric address of a computer connected to the Internet: also called Internet address.

IP Number - Sometimes called a “dotted quad”. A unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots (e.g. Every machine that is on the Internet has a unique IP number - if a machine does not have an IP number, it is not really on the Internet. Most machines also have one or more Domain Names that are easier for people to remember. See also: Domain Name, Internet

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) – Basically a huge multi-user live chat facility. There are a number of major IRC servers around the world which are linked to each other. Anyone can create a “channel” and anything that anyone types in a given channel is seen by all others in the channel. Private channels can (and are) created for multi-person “conference calls”.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) – Basically a way to move more data over existing regular phone lines. It can provide speeds of 64,000 bits-per-second over a regular phone line at almost the same cost as a normal phone call.

Internet (upper case I) - The vast collection of inter-connected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols and that evolved from the ARPANET of the late 60’s and early 70’s. See also: internet

internet (lower case i) Anytime you connect 2 or more networks together, you have an internet - as in inter-national or inter-state. See also: Internet


Kilobyte - A thousand bytes. Usually, 1024 (2^10) bytes. See also: Byte, Bit, LAN

LAN (Local Area Network) – A computer network limited to the immediate area, usually the same building or floor of the building.

Leased-Lined - Refers to a phone line that is rented for exclusive 24-hour, 7-days-a-week use from your location to another location. The highest speed data connections require a leased line. See also: 56K Line, T-1, T-3

Listserv - The most common kind of mail list, Listservs originated on BITNET but they are now common on the Internet See also: BITNET, E-mail, Mail list

Login - Noun or a verb. Noun: The account name used to gain access to a computer system. Not a secret (contrast with Password) Verb: The act of entering into a computer system, e.g. “Login to the internet service and then go to your home directory.” See also: Byte, Bit, Kilobyte

Megabyte - A million bytes. A thousand kilobytes. See also: Byte, Bit, Kilobyte

MOO (Mud, Object Oriented) – one of several kinds of multi-user role-playing environments, so far only text-based. See also: MUD, MUSE

MUD (Multi-User Dungeon or Dimension) – A (usually text-based) multi-user simulation environment. Some are purely for fun and flirting, others are used for serious software development, or education purpose and all that lies in between. A significant feature of most MUDs is that users can create things that stay after they leave and which other users can interact with in their absence, thus allowing a “world” to be built gradually and collectively. See also: MOO

MUSE - One kind of MUD - usually with little or no violence. See also: MOO, MUD

Mail list (or Mailing List) - A system (usually text-based) that allows people to send e-mail to one address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the mail list. In this way, people who have many different kinds of e-mail access can participate in discussions together.

Modem (Modulator, DEModulator) - a device that you connect to your computer and to a phone line, that allows the computer to talk to other computers through the phone system. Basically, modems do for computers what a telephone does for humans.

Mosaic - The first WWW browser that was available for the Macintosh, Windows and UNIX all with the same interface. “Mosaic” really started the popularity of the Web. The source-code to the Mosaic has been licensed by several companies and there are several other pieces of software as good or better than Mosaic, most notably “Netscape”. See also: Browser, Client, WWW

NIC or Internic (Network Information Center) - Generally, any office that handles information for a network. The most famous of these on the internet is the Internic, which is where new domain names are registered.

Network - Anytime you connect 2 or more computers together so that they can share resources you have a computer network. Connect 2 or more networks together and you have an internet. See also: Internet, internet

Newsgroups - The name for discussion groups on Usenet. See also: Usenet

Node - Any single computer connected to a network. See also: Network, Internet


Packet Switching - The method used to move data around on the internet. In packet switching, all the data coming out of a machine is broken up into chunks. Each chunk has the address of where it came from and where it is going. This enables chunks of data from many different sources to co-mingle on the same lines, and be sorted and directed to different routes by special machines along the way. This way many people can use the same lines at the same time.

Password - A code used to gain access to a locked system. Good passwords contain letters and non-letters and are not simple combinations such as "Virtue7". A good password might be: "Hot$1-6". See also: Login

Port - 3 meanings. First and most generally, a place where information goes into or out of a computer, or both; e.g., "the serial port" on a personal computer is where a modem would be connected.
  • On the internet , “port” often refers to a number that is part of a URL, appearing after a colon right after the domain name. Every service on an internet server “listens” on a particular port number on that server. Most services have standard port numbers; e.g., Web servers normally listen on port 80. Services can also listen on non-standard ports, in which case the port number must be specified in a URL when accessing the server, so you might see a URL of the form: gopher:// - which shows a gopher server running on a non-standard port (the standard gopher port is 70). Finally, “port” also refers to translating a piece of software. To bring it from one type of computer to another: e.g., to translate a Windows program so that it will run on Macintosh. See also: Domain Name, Server, URL

PPP (Point to Point Protocol) - most well known as a protocol that allows a computer to use a regular telephone line and a modem to make a TCP/IP connection and thus be truly on the Inter-net. PPP is gradually replacing SLIP for this purpose. See also: IP number, SLIP, TCP/IP

Protocol - A mutually determined set of formats and procedures governing the exchange of information between systems.


Remote Access - The ability to access a computer from outside a building in which it is housed, or outside the library. Remote access requires communications hardware, software, and actual physical links, although this can be as simple as common carrier (telephone) lines or as complex as Telnet login to another computer across the internet.

RFC (Requested For Common) – The name of the result and the process for creating a standard on the Internet. New standards are proposed and published on line, as a “Request For Comments”. The Internet Engineering Task Force is a consensus-building body that facilitates discussion, and eventually a new standard is established; but the reference number/name for the standard retains the acronym “RFC” ; e.g., the official standard for e-mail is RFC 822.

Router - A special-purpose computer (or software package) that handles the connection between 2 or more networks. Routers spend all their time looking at the destination addresses of the packets passing through them and deciding which route to send them on. See also: Client, Network

Server - Computer, or a software package, that provides a specific kind of service to client software running on other computers. The term can refer to a particular piece of software, such as a WWW server, or to the machine on which software is running; e.g., “Our mail server is down today. That’s why e-mail isn’t getting out.” A single server machine could have several different server software packages running on it, thus, providing many different services to clients on the network. See also: Client, Network

Shareware - Microcomputer software, distributed through public domain channels, for which the author expects to receive compensation.

SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol) – a standard for using a regular telephone line (“serial line”) and a modem to connect a computer as a real Internet site. SLIP is gradually being replaced by PPP. See also: Internet, PPP

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) - a protocol developed by Netscape for transmitting private documents via the Internet. SSL works by using a private key to encrypt data that's transferred over the SSL connection. Both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer support SSL, and many Web sites use the protocol to obtain confidential user information, such as credit card numbers. By convention, Web pages that require an SSL connection start with https: instead of http:. See also: Internet

T-1 - Leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 1,544,00 bits per second. At maximum theoretical capacity, a T-1 line could move a megabyte in less than 10 seconds. That is still not fast enough for full-screen, full-motion video, for which you need at least 10,000,000 bits per second. T-1 is the fastest speed commonly used to connect networks to the internet. See also: 56K Line, Bandwidth, Bit, Byte, Ethernet, T-3

T-3 - Leased-line connection capable of carrying data at 45,000,000 bits-per-second. This is more than enough to do full-screen, full-motion video. See also: 56K Line, Bandwidth, Bit, Byte, Ethernet, T-1

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) - This is the suite of protocols that defines The Internet. Originally designed for the UNIX Operating system, TCP/IP software is now available for every major kind of computer operating system. To be truly on the Internet, your computer must have TCP/IP software. See also: IP number, Internet, UNIX

Telnet - command and program used to login from one Internet site to another. The Telnet command/program gets you to the “login:” prompt of another host.

Terminal - device that slows you to send commands to a compute somewhere else. At a minimum, this usually means a keyboard and a display screen and some simple circuitry. Usually you will use terminal software in a personal computer - the software pretends to be (emulates) a physical terminal and allows you to type commands to a computer somewhere else.

Terminal Emulation - Most communications software packages will permit your personal computer or workstation to communicate with another computer or network as if it were a specific type of terminal directly connected to that computer or network.

Terminal Server - Special purpose computer that has places to plug in many modems on one side, and a connection to a LAN or host machine on the other side. Thus the terminal server does the work of answering the calls and passes the connections on to the appropriate node. Most terminal servers can provide PPP or SLIP services if connected to the Internet. See also: LAN, Modem, Host, Node, PPP, SLIP

UNIX - Computer operating system (the basic software running on a computer, underneath things like word processors and spreadsheets). UNIX is designed to be used by many people at the same time (it is “multi-user) and has TCP/IP built-in. It is the most common operating system for servers on the Internet.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – the standard way to give the address of any resource on the Internet that is part of the World Wide Web (WWW). A URL looks like this:
  • Telnet://

The most common way to use a URL is to enter into a WWW browser program, such as Netscape, or Lynx. See also: Browser, WWW

Usenet - World-wide system of discussion groups, with comments passed among hundreds of thousands of machines. Not all Usenet machines are on the Internet, maybe half. Usenet is completely decentralized, with over 10,000 discussion areas, called Newsgroups. See Also: Newsgroups

UUCP - UNIX to UNIX copy, a batch oriented “store and forwarded” protocol for sending files, mail, and news between UUCP interconnected computers. UUCP hosts are not connected full time. They typically call up once or several times a day to retrieve mail and news, as well as send any queued local mail. UUCP was very popular before widespread Internet connectivity was common. It still is an inexpensive way to handle mail and news.


WAIS (Wide Area Information Servers) – A commercial software package that allows the indexing of huge quantities of information, and then making those indices searchable across networks such as the Internet. A prominent feature of WAIS is the at the search results are ranked (scored) according to how relevant the “hits” are, and that subsequent searches can find “more stuff like that last batch” and thus refine the search process.

WAN (Wide Area Network) – Any internet or network that covers an area larger than a single building or campus. See also: Internet, internet, LAN, Network

WWW (World Wide Web) - meanings - First, loosely used: The whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP, Telnet, Usenet, WAIS and some other tools. Second, the universe of hypertext servers (HTTP servers) which are the servers that allow text, graphics, sound files etc to be mixed together. See also: Browser, FTP, Gopher, HTTP, Telnet, URL, WAIS




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