Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the bands of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...William Gibson, Neuromancer
Activities on the Internet can be divided into three main categories:
These three categories are very broad. The general idea is that you can do lots of stuff that you couldn't do otherwise. Some will be of no use to you, but others will save you time and effort, or open up new possibilities. Some of the possibilities include:
Sending messages electronically is useful for keeping in touch with people, whether they are on another campus or in another country. It is also a handy way to transfer documents from one person to another. Without doubt, e-mail is the most popular use of the Internet.
One of the most powerful features of electronic mail are mailing lists:- like-minded people sharing their expertise and experience. Almost every subject that you can imagine is out there.
Lots of pictures are available for free from computer networks around the world. Great for jazzing up your overheads.
You can connect directly to almost every local, State and university library catalogue and many of the major databases. From your desk, you can find a lot of the information that you need.
Experts and enthusiasts across the world have freely contributed answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). Not all subjects are covered, but a surprisingly wide array of information is available. These FAQs represent the collected wisdom of the Internet.
Transferring information from IBM (Wintel) to any other computer (Macintosh, UNIX) and back is fairly straightforward.
Publishing information electronically is remarkably easy. You can link your documents to a world wide collection of information, called the World Wide Web (WWW or Web).
Thousands of special interest groups (news groups) discuss their particular passion every day. This system works like electronic notice boards - you stick a note up on the board and anyone wandering along can read it. You can read and reply to any note stuck up by anyone else.
You can talk to people immediately, either via text, voice or poor-quality video. The text system (chat) splits your screen in two:- what you type appears at the top and what they type appears at the bottom. Voice or video requires a microphone and video camera. Juggling international time zones can be tricky, though.
Surprise, surprise. There are lots of people playing games on the Internet. Everything from chess and backgammon to Mornington Crescent. There are also games which are only possible on the Net, like Multi User Dungeons (MUDs).
Many small software programs are provided freely or very cheaply (under an honor payment system called 'shareware').