Peggy investigates the Internet computer network.
Segment length: 7:39
- Why is the Internet sometimes called the information superhighway?
- Why is it growing and changing so rapidly?
You hear about a new, world-class biology research laboratory and decide to visit it.
You look around the lobby, then find your way into the chemistry lab where you pick up
a carbon atom. After you change the number of protons and adjust the number of electrons
and neutrons, the atom informs you it's become oxygen. Suddenly, you notice that two
biochemists have entered the room and are discussing an article from the latest issue of
Science magazine. You greet them, then change the atom further so it becomes nitrogen
before you head toward the library.
The lab you have just visited is called the BioMOO biology center--and it only exists on
a computer. You reach the lab through the Internet, an electronic network that connects
computers around the world. Scientists (and anyone else who is interested) can meet at
the BioMOO labs without leaving their desks, simply by guiding their computers to make a
connection through the "information superhighway."
The Internet is sometimes called the information superhighway because it provides
electronic pathways for transporting vast quantities of information from place to place
all over the world. There is so much information available on the computers connected to
the Internet that you could never look at it all. Students, researchers, hobbyists,
business executives, and other "net surfers" are constantly adding to it.
The Internet is actually a rapidly growing network of networks. Thousands of
universities, businesses, and other organizations have their own computer networks.
These networks are connected to each other over high-speed data lines. Together, the
computer networks form an information and communication web known as the global Internet.
More than 15 million people worldwide have logged onto the Internet, and approximately
two million new people log on every month!
Besides visiting world-class "virtual" biology labs, you can also get information on
almost any subject area, from how to make recycled paper to what the President is
scheduled to do that day. You can communicate by exchanging electronic messages (called
e-mail) delivered within minutes to people in almost any place in the world. You can
meet enthusiasts interested in the same things you are--whether it's rap music or chess--
and join them in a conversation or a cross-continent computer game. You can join in
collaborative experiments and share results with other students and teachers throughout
the world. You can gather pictures, sounds, and software from space shuttle missions,
science museums, or amusement parks. The possibilities increase daily.
- Why is access to information valuable? What role does information play in
- The Internet lets people around the world discuss issues without ever
leaving their offices, schools, or homes. Will this have a negative or positive impact on our society
- Anyone can post almost any information on the Internet. What are the pros
and cons of this?
baud rate the speed at which a modem sends information. The higher the baud rate number,
the faster the information can be sent.
chat immediate interactive conversation between two or more people via text transmitted
across the network
cyberspace the "place" you feel you are in when you enter, communicate through, and
travel over computer networks
e-mail messages sent from one computer to another
through a network. An e-mail message can be sent to just one person or to many people at a time, reaching almost any area in
Internet a loosely-knit, international network
of computers (Inter from international, net from network)
modem an electronic device that allows a computer to communicate with other computers
or fax machines over a phone line
on-line connected to a computer network
- Birkerts, S. & Kelly, K. (1994, May) The electronic hive: Two views. Harper's Magazine,
- Corcoran, E. (1993, Sept 20) Why kids love computer nets. Fortune, pp. 103-106.
- Eddings, J. (1994) How the Internet works. Emeryville, CA: Ziff-Davis.
- Hahn, H. & Stout, R. (1994) The Internet Yellow Pages. Berkeley, CA: Osborne McGraw-Hill.
- Harris, J. (1994, Mar) Information collecting activities. The Computing Teacher, pp.
- Wallich, P. (1994, Mar) Wire pirates. Scientific American, pp. 90-101.
- Weiss, J., Jr. (1993, Mar) Real-world science in today's world. Technology & Learning,
Additional sources of information
Electronic Frontier Foundation
666 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Suite 303
Washington, DC 20003
(Addresses social and legal issues related to the use of computer networks. Send e-mail
to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the mailing list.)
Local computer user group
Commercial on-line services that offer Internet access
Newsgroups are electronic forums for discussing a topic. Through newsgroups, people with
common interests can share information and ideas over the Internet. Thousands of
Internet newsgroup topics exist, ranging from dance to artificial intelligence, from
comic books to Brazilian culture. Anyone with a computer connected to the network can
read or post messages to a newsgroup.
In this activity, you will start and maintain a bulletin board to get a sense of the
potential and pitfalls of on-line newsgroups.
- a bulletin board
- pens and paper (recycled, if available)
- pushpins or thumb tacks
- Choose a topic for your bulletin board, such as football, music,
gymnastics, book club, comic books, horseback riding, etc. Choose one that you find interesting or
important and that you feel others would like to discuss. Give your board a name and
label it so that others can see what the topic is.
- Begin your bulletin board by posting a message that you think will get
people talking about the topic. Decide whether to moderate your board or leave it unmoderated.
If you moderate it, anyone who wants to post a message needs to submit the message
first to you. You then decide to post it, keep it, or give it back to the sender. If
you decide on an unmoderated board, anyone can post a message directly onto the board.
- Now, hang your board in an accessible place and invite others to add to
- As your bulletin board progresses, develop a list of frequently asked
questions (FAQs) on your topic. Write up brief, straightforward answers for each question and
post the list on your board.
- Find out what it takes to keep people reading and contributing to an
interactive bulletin board.
- How did your bulletin board evolve? Did it meet your expectations?
- What problems did you encounter in running your bulletin board? Do you
think the same types of problems might develop in Internet newsgroups?
- How might your bulletin board benefit from being on the Internet and
allowing participation from anyone in the world? What difficulties might develop?
- How might the way people participate in a bulletin board be different if
it's electronic rather than on a wall with cards?
Emoticons are smiley and other faces (such as : -) and -8^ \ ) made from letters and
other symbols typed on a keyboard. You usually have to look at them sideways to see the
face. Someone writing an e-mail message may add emoticons to express emotion or to find
a creative way to sign a name. Invent your own emoticon that looks like your favorite
musician, actor, or yourself and make up the signature that you would like to use to
sign e-mail messages.
Is there a question you have always wondered about? People "post" questions on Internet
newsgroups or other discussion groups to ask about topics such as raising children,
video games, and bicycle repair. Think of three questions. Find out where you might
post or send your questions by looking in an Internet manual or directory. If you have
access to the Internet, send out your questions. If not, find out how else you might
get your questions answered.
Newton's Apple is a production of KTCA Twin Cities Public Television. Made possible by a
grant from 3M. Educational materials developed with the National Science Teachers