Fast-tracking access to information stronghold

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 1996, 12:00am


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Although the 21st century is still more than three years away we are well along the 21st century technology track on the information superhighway.

How do you get on it? One of the key entry points is the Internet.

If you are a novice in this fast-moving telecommunications world, you may wonder how this collection of interconnected networks which use a common set of network protocols, is changing the life of humans. A major factor is that it brings people together around the globe.

The Internet was first developed in the 1960s in the US Department of Defence to support military research. In the 1980s it was introduced into the National Science Foundation to serve universities across the country. Now the Internet is intruding into the life of the man in the street. With its ever-improving user-friendly nature, more and more people are now registered Internet users.

In Hong Kong this includes private users, businesses and most tertiary institutions. The result is an increasing number of people are greatly dependent on the services and information provided by the Internet.

Through the Internet you can use 'electronic mail' or e-mail to communicate with other Internet users worldwide. Having an assigned e-mail address, you can mail your letters to users at their addresses not only using words but also vivid graphics. In the past, we have had pen-friends. Now and in the future we can have e-mail friends.

Another Internet facility allows you to 'transfer files' to friends, classmates and colleagues, to share information. It also enables users to discuss ideas with people from all walks of life, however far away, via 'discussion groups'.

This gives you immediate feedback on what you are doing or thinking about doing.

If you are eager for feedback, or simply to have a chat for a couple of hours with your friends, you may consider using the 'talk' function on the Internet. This allows you to communicate almost immediately with them.

Internet may be used as an open forum or to advertise and therefore allows you to obtain and exchange information on anything and everything with other users. This helps to keep one up-to-date on the hottest issues.

To start driving along the information superhighway you need, basically, three things: a computer (including relevant computer knowledge), Internet access and a desire for information.

Theoretically, a 386 model computer could be used for accessing Internet. However, the more powerful your computer, the faster and smoother the transactions and the more time saved. If you are not a computer nut you will not find it too difficult to get on the track once you enter one's 'home page'. Then you can explore.

Before you can take full advantage of Internet, you have to be a registered user. That means you need to contact the Internet service provided by an Internet company. There is no such thing as a free meal and so, naturally, you have to pay for your networking time. This is like using the International Direct Dialling (IDD) service provided by the telephone company but, of course, at a lower price rate.

There are lots of books and magazines available for teaching people how to use the Internet. So, happy driving on the information superhighway!