An Internet FAQ
1. How big is the Internet? When did it start? How did it
The Internet is actually much smaller than most people
think. It is primarily composed of fiber optic cables no thicker than a human
hair, which can be conveniently rolled up and stored in a foot locker. Janitors
at the National Science Foundation do this on the third Tuesday of every month
when they wax the floors.
Since fiber optics are the size of human hairs, they also
make attractive wigs. The next time you watch a Sprint commercial, you'll see
that Candice Bergen's alleged hair is really the T4 backbone.
The earliest origins of the Internet can be traced to
ancient Greece, where a loosely connected set of networks was used to discuss
exploration in the Black Sea. The Argonets, as they were then called, were
entirely subsidized by the government, and won one of William Proxmire's first
Golden Fleece awards.
The Internet grows hyperbolically, but it is usually
2. Who owns the Internet?
There is no one person or agency that owns the Internet.
Instead, parts of it are owned by the Illuminati and parts are owned by Free
3. What do the Internet addresses mean?
Precise meanings are often hard to determine. The address
baker.lib.washington.edu - which is sometimes written email@example.com
- seems to refer to a computer either owned by a baker or by someone named
Baker. This can be deceiving however; names like this actually refer to where a
computer is located. This one is on top of Mt. Baker.
In addition to names, computers on the Internet also have
numbers. This is part of the whole right brain/left brain thing.
4. Tell me how to get on and off various lists and
Getting off on various lists is currently the subject of
5. What is "netiquette?"
"Netiquette" is one of many cutesy neologisms created by
combining two other words. In this case, "network" and "tourniquette" combine
to describe a program that shuts down a computer if it starts transmitting
information too fast.
6. What is "flaming?"
Along with an improvisational approach to floating point
arithmetic, early Pentium chips were noted for generating heat. While some
hackers speak fondly of roasting marshmallows over their first P60s, others
found themselves badly singed as the chips caught fire. This "flaming"
sometimes occurred while the user was composing e-mail, resulting in poorly
chosen or excessively vitriolic verbiage.
7. What is "bandwidth?"
As capacity on the Internet has increased, people have begun
to transmit material other than simple text. One notable example is audio
recordings of rock concerts. These audio files are much larger than even very
long books. So they have become a standard unit of network usage. One Rolling
Stone songs equals one "band" width, and so on.
8. Why can't I FTP to some places?
There are two main reasons for this. The fist is that the
site you want to FTP files from is exercising a certain degree of control over
its network resources; in network parlance, this is called "fascism."
The second reason is that the remote site may be dabbling
with such network fads as Gopher or the World Wide Web. This is called "keeping
up with the times."
9. What is the World Wide Web, Gopherspace, etc?
The World Wide Web, or WWW, is an experiment in generating
acronyms that are much more difficult to pronounce than the words they
Gopherspace is an older network term. In response to the
soviet space program's early use of dogs in space, NASA mounted a program to
orbit a number of different rodents. The programmers involved in this project
adopted the motto "Gophers in space!" which has since been shortened. The only
actual gopher to go into orbit had been digging up the carrots in Werner Von
Braun's garden, and was named Veronica after his daughter.
10. Why can't I get some WWW stuff via FTP?
It can be hard to say this, but some users of the Internet
are unable to do things because they are stupid. The comparatively trivial task
of getting an FTP client to do every single thing a WWW browser can do is
beneath this column's attention.