Surfing the Information Highway (March 1996)

I spent several hours this weekend "surfing the internet." Have you heard that term yet? If you've heard it, do you know what it means? If you know what it means, have you done it?

First, allow me to give you a brief definition of the internet. The internet is a network of computers scattered all around the world. It was developed mostly by the United States government to provide an easy way for various government sites to communicate. Universities and research centers added their computers to the internet, and now many private businesses are hooking their computers to the internet.

The most popular and fastest growing portion of the internet is the "World Wide Web". The World Wide Web (WWW) gives you the capability to look at pictures or documents on various computers all over the world. Each WWW site has what's called a "home page", which contains information about the site and / or its subject areas, and contains links to various other sites. For example, if you locate the state of South Carolina's home page, you will find information about the state, and will find links or pointers to home pages for the various colleges and universities in the state.

Surfing the internet means following the various trails of pointers that lead you from one web site to another and from one host computer to another. By the click of a button, you can be transported from a computer in Columbia, South Carolina to a computer in Columbia, South America. From a computer in Charlotte, North Carolina to a computer in Charlottetown, Canada, From a computer in Denmark, South Carolina to a computer in.... well, you get the idea.

While surfing this weekend, I came across several interesting web sites. The most interesting was the state of South Carolina's home page (http://www. The home page is very nice looking, with a map of South Carolina highlighting the major cities, and 6 major subject areas which you can explore. The page includes a welcome from Governor David Beasley, who has been a user of CompuServe for many years. By the click of a button, you can send the governor a personal message.

The SC home page includes a guest registry where you can log your name and post a comment or question. The guest registry makes for some interesting reading. For example, one guest left the question, "Does anyone have access to a weather report for Bennettsville, SC, for April 23, 1908?" Another left a question, "Does anyone know the address of the web page for The State newspaper?". By the click of a button, I was able to send a note to that person, telling her that the site address is http://www.infi .net/thestate and is posted on page 2 of the paper every day.

After reading the questions and answers below, you may want to get yourself a modem and head out on the information highway. Happy surfing.

Dear Dr. Geek: How do I get access to the internet? J.K., Wagener

There are numerous ways of gaining access to the internet. Augusta, Aiken, and Columbia all have internet access providers who, for a monthly fee, will provide you with a gateway to the internet. Costs range from $10 to $50 per month, depending on the pricing plan you choose and the amount of time you use the service

Another way to gain access is to get access to one of the major online services: America Online, Compu-Serv, Microsoft Network, or Prodigy. Dr. Geek subscribes to three of these services, but one service should suffice for most non-geeks. All four of these services give you access to internet mail (which allows you to send mail to anyone in the world who's connected to the internet) and the world wide web.

Dear Dr. Geek: Which Online service is the best? B.F., Perry

I subscribe to three different services for three different reasons. Let me describe each of the services, then you decide which is best for you.

CompuServ has been around a long time, and has a wealth of information and services available to its customers. Most anyone who wants to provide information on-line will usually have an outpost on CompServ. I subscribe to CompuServ because it has the best technical support for my software development tools, namely Microsoft Access and Visual Basic. I can post almost any question about these products, and within a day or two I will have an answer from either a Microsoft representative or some other expert. The biggest drawback of CompServ (for me) is cost. While many of CompServ's services are free, most of the ones that I want to use cost about $3/hr. above my monthly $8 charge.

America Online is my favorite online service and the one I use most often. It is the easiest to use, and for $10 per month I get 5 hours of free access. Each additional hour costs about $3. Because of the way AOL is designed, I use only 4 or 5 minutes of time per day, checking my mail. It's been quite a while since I went over my 5 hours in a month. AOL also provides the easiest access to the internet.

The Microsoft Network is the new kid on the block. The reason I subscribe to it is that I was offered a charter membership for a very good price. MSN has several pricing plans and is generally competitive with the other services. The biggest drawback of MSN is that it is very slow, and it only runs on Windows 95. But if you have Win 95, a 28.8 modem, and 16 MB RAM, it might be the service for you.

The biggest problem with online access from the Wagener area is the long distance charges to Columbia. If you're going to go on-line, you'll need to also subscribe to Pond Branch Plus, which allows you unlimited calling to Columbia for $30 per month. The price is steep, but that's the price for living in Paradise.

If you have a computer related question for Dr. Geek, please mail it to:
The Tri-County News
PO Box 941
Wagener, SC 29164.

Letters are subject to Editor's approval and must be accompanied by your name and address.

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This page is produced and maintained by Tom Sliker of Sliker Office Solutions, Wagener, SC.