Introduction to the Internet

SLAC 7 Jun 1996

This page is frozen and has not received any significant updating since September, 1994. Links are not being maintained. The question of how to handle dissemination of introductory Internet information at SLAC is on the list to be addressed as time allows. Please contact Joan Winters if you would miss anything here or have ideas about what you'd like to see.

The Internet has become the primary computer network used at SLAC for national and international communication. The Internet is a collection of networks that presently use the TCP/IP (not OSI) protocol suite and operate as one cooperative, virtual network. It has recently grown rapidly across much of the world and is presently found in over forty countries. Interesting Internet networks include NSFNET, ESnet, BARRNet, SUNET, and MILNET. The Internet has gateways to other, non-TCP/IP networks like BITNET.

Each Internet network establishes its own usage rules and Network Operations Center (NOC). Internet hosts may be in universities, research labs, schools, commercial organizations, military installations, individual's homes, etc. Policy and standards (called RFCs), for the connected Internet and the TCP/IP protocol suite are set by the IAB. The Internet is descended from the ARPANET, which operated from 1969-1990. Today, even much BITNET traffic flows over the Internet (via protocol layering).

In addition to connectivity, the Internet provides a number of applications like e-mail and Netnews, all based on the unreliable packet and reliable full-duplex stream delivery capabilities of the network. Over the years, not only has a rich set of applications evolved (many through volunteer labor), but also etiquette for using them. Permeating the Internet is a sense of ethics that honors individualism, accepts the network as good, and assumes the importance of protecting it. By now a humongous amount of information on almost any subject you can name is available in diverse formats.

Getting started

Given the complexity of the environment, reading a book is a good way to begin. Popular ones include:

Krol, Ed, 1992. The Whole Internet: User's Guide and Catalog (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA). SLAC Library has. More comprehensive than most; still easy to follow. The publisher has put some parts online in their Global Network Navigator: What Is the Internet?" and "The Whole Internet Catalog". See also the GNN Help Desk. But note unusual subscription restriction.

LaQuey, Tracey, 1993. Internet Companion: A Beginner's Guide to Global Networking (Addison-Wesley). SLAC Library has. An easy way to get started.

Other information resources to look at early, where the phrase on the left is a name by which the file is known, include:

A map of the international connectivity provided today by common computer networks, with additional specifics by country.
51 Reasons
Success stories submitted to FARNET for a forthcoming book, "51 Reasons: How We Use the Internet and What It Says about the Information Superhighway." (FARNET is the Federation of American Research Networks.)
Introduction to Internet electronic addresses and domain names.
Statement of policy on the proper use of Internet resources.

Internet overview

Here are a few useful information sources on the network, extracted from an endless list. The phrase on the left is a name the information is known by.

FAQ including annotated bibliography on Internet books for various interests in Section D., "Networking and Communications."
The hypertext form of a FAQ called the Internet Services List that treats Internet connections to diverse resources from Agricultural Information to WorldWideWeb. See also the related faq and newsgroup,
The Netnews newsgroup with the definitive set of USENET FAQs. Covers diverse subjects. A good place to start is news-answers/introduction. See also the FAQs for new Netnews users, news-newusers-intro and news-announce-intro/part1.
X.500 Directory Service ("white pages"), an ISO/CCITT international standard. Obtained through a WWW gateway.
The original Gopher client/server at the University of Minnesota, for browsing through menus of resources at hundreds of Internet sites. (See gopher-faq.)
A Gopher-based service that provides keyword searches of a database of (most) all the Gopher menus on the Internet.
A list of hypertext Archie servers around the world, which are accessible to WWW. Unlike other Archie servers, ArchiePlex ones return hypertext links to the located files. Much freeware can be found through Archie.
The experimental Wide Area Information System, through which you can perform textual searches of one or more WAIS indices anywhere on the network and retrieval of the documents or other material found. (See the getting-started FAQ.)
A list of network information sources classified by type of service like X.500, Gopher, Archie, or WAIS.
List based on the ISO 3166 standard for country names and their codes, e.g., CH for Switzerland and CN for China.
Acceptable usage policy for NSFNET backbone services.
Information, Directory and Data Base, and Registration Services provided and/or coordinated by the InterNIC to the Internet community. To find information available on the Internet, see the InfoGuide. Or check out the weekly Scout Report on new resource announcements and other news.
Description of the DOE's ESnet, its activities, and other information of interest to energy researchers.
Description of BARRNet plus related information and data files.
Internet RFCs
The documents that define the Internet, with some overview ones highlighted. (See ESnet for the latest ones).
Internet Society
Description of the Internet Society (ISOC), the international group for global cooperation and coordination that ultimately works out where the Internet is going through committees like the IAB and its subcommittees, the IETF and the IRTF. See the ISOC Gopher for more information, or join the society.
Resource Guides
The University of Michigan's Clearinghouse of Subject-Oriented Internet Resource Guides.
Domain Survey
Network Wizards' survey of Internet domain names with links to statistics from other organizations.

Basic commands

Some useful commands follow (ones without hypertext links await installation of a local man page server):

invokes an interactive, screen-oriented mail system for doing tasks like reading, writing, and filing mail. UNIX(TM) only.
displays identifying information about one or more users.
transfers files between a local and remote host that may have dissimilar file systems. Uses the relatively rich FTP protocol.
shows network status.
queries Internet domain name servers interactively or not.
requests echo from foreign host to check the status of the connection.
supports login from a local to a remote host.
transfers files between a local and remote host that may have dissimilar files systems. Uses the minimal TFTP protocol.
reads Netnews newgroups efficiently and in a "threaded" order (interconnected in reply order). Linemode. UNIX only.
invokes the WorldWideWeb (WWW) hypertext system to find and access Internet resources.
searches a user name directory for identifying information about a name.
provides an X Window System interface for reading Netnews newsgroups. UNIX only.
Detailed information on these commands is usually available on your host. Enter the appropriate help command, e.g., "man <command_name>" on UNIX or "HELP <command_name>" on VM, where you replace <command_name> with the name of the command you're interested in.

Other Sources of Information

You may also find reference documents about the Internet and various other international networks and their usage on the Consulting Reference Shelf in the Lobby of the Computation Group Building (CGB) and, of course, in the SLAC Library. Here's a taste of its holdings on the Internet. Sooner or later, though, the best way to learn about the Internet is to explore it.

* Access to this link is restricted to SLAC users.