How Does the Internet Work?
The Internet has become part and parcel of everyday life. Websites are popping up everywhere, giving us more options and choices than we ever thought possible. The Internet can be used for business and personal purposes. The Internet provides a wealth of information of virtually every nature. A quick search on the Internet will bring you to an enormous range of topics, from the history of the Internet to its present uses.
What is the Internet? Internet as a word refers to computer networking, using the Internet as a method for exchanging data between computers. The first attempts to use the Internet were in the early 1970s, with the development of the ARPANET network (the acronym for ARPAnet Internet Protocol). The first networks to connect computers were the WIN-INE (water tower operating system), the ARPANET (Internet Protocol – Internet Messaging), and the Bibliography Network. These early protocols used leased lines, which means that the computers on these networks had to be rented out for each visit. This arrangement proved to be extremely expensive, and also limited the amount of bandwidth that any one computer could use at any given time.
In order to overcome these problems, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the ARPANET. ARPANET became a global machine, with information spread all over the globe using short-messaging protocols (known as “ICQ”). By communicating via this network, the computers on each side of the connection could communicate with one another, and with the computers at the other end of the connection. This revolutionized the use of the Internet and changed it forever. Today, almost every major company uses the Internet for long distance communication, and the Internet is now the largest and most common form of worldwide communication.
How does the Internet work? When you visit a web site, your computer sends you an IP (Internet Protocol) address. This IP address is merely a way for your computer to identify itself to the World Wide Web, and it’s this ID that lets other computers know how to find your computer and connect to it over the internet. In turn, your computer maintains a list of all of these IP addresses, called “hops”, and these hops are always stored in your local area network (LAN).
When you visit a web site, this IP address is sent over the wire (in a “packet”) to your router, which translate’s this packet data into packets of information that are transferred over the air between the computer and the router. Once the packets reach the other end, they are converted into digital data that can be read by programs on your computer. This data is then stored, either on your hard drive or in your LAN. As you can imagine, the Internet has literally taken the world by storm, and today it is possible for individual computers to connect to networks of other computers and extend their networks with the help of broadband internet service providers (ISP’s).
Broadband internet connections allow individuals to access the worldwide web and take full advantage of having the same internet connection as other users around the globe. In order to use the Internet, you don’t even need a landline phone or email address anymore – you can use your computer to send and receive emails and even surf the web no matter where you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home in the comforts of your bed, in the back yard of your friend’s house, or in the darkest basement of a rental apartment in Paris, France – if you have an internet connection, you can use the Internet to do almost anything online. To get an even closer look at how broadband works, check out our online FAQs, chat rooms, and discussion forums.