The Internet


The Internet

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 "online" 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 online 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 anytime.

Q. How?
A. Nobody has ever been able to find out. Some of us have been trying for years to cancel our online 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 online service right now.

Q. Aside from running up charges, what else can I do once I'm connected to an online service?
A. Millions of things! An incredible array of things! No end of things!

Q. Like what?
A. You can ... ummmm ... OK! I have one! You can chat.

Q. Chat?
A. 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 and stupid!

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!

Q. Really?
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 recreation of a typical chat area dialog (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?
LilBrisket: No
Toadster: Nope
Lungftook: Sorry


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?
UvulaBob: No.


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. 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 t angry counter messages and vicious name-calling that can go on fo 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 understanding.

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 semifinalist 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 one single character wrong?
A. You will launch U.S. nuclear missiles against Norway.

Q. Ah.
A. But assuming you type in the correct address, you merely press Enter, and there you are!

Q. Where?
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 person.

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 browser," which is a kind 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 tool.

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!