Show #1208

Peggy investigates the Internet computer network. Segment length: 7:39


Insights & Connections



Main activity

Try this


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.


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 the world.

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


Additional sources of information

Electronic Frontier Foundation
666 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Suite 303
Washington, DC  20003
(202) 544-9237
(Addresses social and legal issues related to the use of computer networks. Send e-mail 
to and ask to be added to the mailing list.)

Community resources

ultinational corporations

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Now, hang your board in an accessible place and invite others to add to it.
  4. 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.
  5. Find out what it takes to keep people reading and contributing to an interactive bulletin board.


  1. How did your bulletin board evolve? Did it meet your expectations?
  2. What problems did you encounter in running your bulletin board? Do you think the same types of problems might develop in Internet newsgroups?
  3. How might your bulletin board benefit from being on the Internet and allowing participation from anyone in the world? What difficulties might develop?
  4. 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 Association.