Retail Sign Shop Network - Glossary of Internet Terms
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Glossary Listed Alphabetically

| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

account Just like at a bank, computers used by more than one person use accounts to keep track of (and bill) who's doing what on their system. When you sign up with an Internet service provider, you're given an account name that allows you access.

address Secret code by which the Internet identifies you so that people can send you mail. It usually looks like username@hostname, where username is your username, login name, or account number, and hostname is the Internet's name for the computer or Internet provider you use. The hostname can be a few words strung together with periods. To contact the editor at the address, for example, is because his username is editor and his is on a computer named

America Online (AOL) A public Internet provider. If you have an account on AOL, your Internet address is, where username is your account name.

anonymous FTP A method of using the FTP program to log on to another computer to copy files, even though you don't have an account on the other computer. When you log on, you enter anonymous as the username and your address as the password, and you get access to publicly available files.

Archie A system that helps you find files located anywhere on the Internet. After Archie helps you find the file, you use FTP to get it. Archie is both a program and a system of servers (computers that contain indexes of files).

Archive A file that contains a group of files which have been compressed together for efficient storage. You have to use an archive program to get the original files back out. Commonly used programs include compress, tar, cpio, and zip (on UNIX systems) and PKZIP (on DOS systems).

ARPANET A computer network started in 1969 (the original ancestor of the Internet) and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense; it was dismantled several years ago.

article A posting to a newsgroup. That is, a message someone sends to the newsgroup to be readable by everyone who reads the newsgroup.

ASCII American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Basically, the code computers use to represent letters, numbers, and special characters.

AUP Acceptable use policy; a set of rules describing which sorts of activities are permitted on a network. The most restrictive AUP was the one on the NSFNET that prohibited most commercial and nonacademic use. The NSFNET AUP is no longer in force anywhere, although many people erroneously believe that it is.

automatic mailing list A mailing list maintained by a computer program, usually one named LISTSERV or Majordomo. See also mailing list.

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baud The number of symbols per second that a modem sends down a phone line. Baud is often incorrectly confused with bps (bits per second). A 14,400 bps modem transmits at 2,400 baud, because each of the modem symbols represents 6 bits.

BBS Bulletin-board system; a system that lets people read each other's messages and post new ones. The Usenet system of newsgroups is in effect the world's largest distributed BBS.

binary file A file that contains information which does not consist only of text. For example, a binary file might contain an archive a picture, sounds, a spreadsheet, or a word-processing document (which includes formatting codes in addition to characters).

Bionet A type of newsgroup that discusses topics of interest to biologists. If you're not a biologist, don't bother reading them.

Bit The smallest unit of measure for computer data. Bits can be turned on or off and are used in various combinations to represent different kinds of information. Many bits form a byte. Bytes form words.

BITFTP The most widely available FTP-by-mail server.

bitmap Lots of teeny, tiny, little dots put together to make a picture. Screens (and paper) are divided into thousands of little, tiny bits, each of which can be turned on or off. These little bits are combined to create graphical representations. GIF and JPG files are the most popular kinds of bitmap files on the Net.

BITNET A network of mostly IBM mainframes that connects to the Internet. If you have an account on machine xyzvm3 on the BITNET and your username on the machine is abc, your Internet mail address is abc@xyzvm3.bitnet; or if your system isn't well-informed about BITNET,

BIX A commercial system formerly run by Byte magazine and now run by Delphi. If you have a BIX account, your Internet address is, where username is your account name.

Biz A type of Usenet newsgroup that discusses business and commercial topics. Most other types of newsgroups are supposed to stay away from commercial messages.

bps Bits per second, a measurement used to describe how fast data is transmitted. Usually used to describe modem speed (not quite the same as baud).

bridge Something that connects two networks so that they appear to be a single larger network.

broadband network A network that can handle many separate signals at the same time. Broadband networks use different channels to transfer different forms of information, such as data, voice, and video.

browser A super-duper, all-singing, all dancing program that lets you read information on the World Wide Web. Netscape Navigator is the best known.

bulletin-board system An electronic message system that enables you to read and post messages. See also BBS.

byte A series of bits of a particular length, usually eight. Computer storage is usually measured in bytes.

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Cello A program, written at the Cornell Law School, that enables you to access the World Wide Web from your PC running Windows. Obsolescent compared to Mosaic and Netscape.

CERFnet One of the regional networks originally set up to work with the NSFNET; its headquarters are in California.

Chameleon Commercial Windows software that enables you to connect directly to the Internet by way of a SLIP/PPP Internet provider.

chat To talk live to other network users from any and all parts of the world. To do this, you use Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

CIX The Commercial Internet Exchange, an association of Internet providers who agree to exchange traffic without AUP-type restrictions.

ClaiNet Usenet newsgroups that contain various categories of news, including news from the AP newswire, distributed for a modest fee. Not all systems carry the ClariNet newsgroups because they cost money You can also subscribe to some of them yourself - send mail to for information.

client A computer that uses the services of another computer (such as Usenet or Gopher or FTP or Archie or the World Wide Web). If your computer is a PC or Macintosh and you dial in to another system, your computer becomes a client of the system you dial in to.

client/server model A division of labor between computers. Computers that provide a service other computers can use are known as servers. Servers provide such services as FTP or Archie or the World Wide Web. If you don't have these services on your very own machine, you can connect to these machines and use these services and thereby become a client.

com When these letters appear in the last part of an address (, for example), it indicates that the host computer is run by a company rather than by a university or governmental agency. It also means that the host computer is probably in the United States.

communications program A program you run on your personal computer that enables you to call up and communicate with other computers. It's a rather broad term, but most people use it to mean a program that makes your computer pretend to be a terminal (that's why they're also known as terminal programs or terminal emulators). The most commonly used communications programs on PCs are Windows Terminal (because it's free with Windows), Crosstalk, and Procomm, though there are lots of others.

comp A type of newsgroup that discusses topics about computers, such as comp.lang.c (which discusses the C programming language) and comp.society.folklore (which covers the folklore and culture of computer users).

compression program Software used to squeeze files together so that they take up less room and are easier to transfer from one location to another. Popular compression programs include ZIP and Stuffit. The opposite of compression is expansion.

CompuServe An on-line information provider that gives you some Internet access. Jeez, everyone must have heard of it by now. It provides lots of forums, which are similar to newsgroups, including many that provide excellent technical support for a wide range of PC and Mac software. If your CompuServe account number is 7123,456, your Internet address is (notice the period in the account number).

country code The last part of a geographic address, which indicates which country the host computer is in. An address that ends in ca is Canadian, for example, and one that ends in us is in the United States.

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daemon A mysterious little program that runs while you're not looking and takes care of things you would rather not know about.

DARPA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the funding agency for the original ARPANET, the precursor of today's Internet.

Delphi An on-line information provider that includes access to lots of Internet services. If you have an account on Delphi, your Internet address is, where username is your account name.

digest A compilation of the messages that have been posted to a mailing list over the past few days. Many people find it more convenient to receive one big message than a bunch of individual ones.

directory A structure, sort of like a file folder (and called a folder in the Macintosh world). A special kind of file used to organize other files. Directories are lists of other files and can contain other directories (known as subdirectories) that contain still more files. UNIX, DOS, and Windows systems all use directory structures. The more stuff you have, the more you need directories in which to organize it. Directories enable you to organize files hierarchically.

domain The official Internet-ese name of a computer on the Net. It's the part of an Internet address that comes after the Internet For Marsmedia Central is, for example, and its domain name is

domain name server (Or just name server or abbreviated as DNS.) A computer on the Internet that translates between Internet domain names, such as, and Internet numerical addresses, such as

download To bring software from a remote computer "down" to your computer.

dumb terminal A screen and a keyboard and not much else. It sort of resembles a PC without the computer. Dumb terminals connect to other computers and use their data and their computing. When you use your computer to dial in to another computer (ignoring SLIP and PPP connections for the moment), your computer generally acts like a dumb terminal and relies on the computer you've dialed in to for processing the requests you make.

dynamic routing A method of addressing information on the Internet (not just mail messages, but all information) so that if one route is blocked or broken, the information can take an alternative route. Pretty darned clever. The U.S. Department of Defense built this method into the design of the Internet for the benefit of the military, to resist enemy attack. It's also useful when nonmilitary networks are attacked by errant backhoes.

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e-mail Electronic mail (also called e-mail or just mail) messages sent by way of the Internet to a particular person.

Easylink An e-mail service formerly run by Western Union and now run by AT&T. (It's not widely known to the public, but it's bigger than AOL.) If you have an Easylink account, your Internet address is, where 1234567 is your account number.

edu When these letters appear in the last part of an address (for example, in ), it indicates that the host computer is run by an educational institution, probably a college or university. It also means that the host computer is probably in the United States.

elm An easy-to-use UNIX mail reader, which we vastly prefer over mail. Another good one is Pine.

environment variable Values that can be set to help get your computer automatically into a state ready for you to use. Environment variables are part of your operating system's machinations and are specific to the operating system you run.

Ethernet A cable that connects pieces of a local area network in a particular pattern. Developed by Xerox, it is sometimes called IEEE 802.3, which refers to the standard that defines it.

Eudora A mail-handling program that runs on the Macintosh and under Windows. Originally a shareware program, it is now sold by Qualcomm.

expansion program Software used to expand a file that has been compressed. Popular expansion programs include UNZIP and Unstuffit.

FAQ Frequently asked questions. This regularly posted Usenet article answers questions that come up regularly in a newsgroup. Before you ask a question in a newsgroup, make sure that you have read its FAQ because it may well contain the answer. People get annoyed if you ask questions that are answered in the newsgroup's FAQ, because they probably have already answered the question 150 times. FAQs are posted regularly, usually once a week or once a month. To read all the regularly posted FAQs for all newsgroups, read the newsgroup news.answers. To read an entire book of frequently asked questions about the Internet, get Margy's Internet FAQs (IDG Books Worldwide, 1995).

FAX modem Modems (really should be fax-data modems) that enable you to send and receive faxes in addition to ordinary computer-type data. Fax is short for facsimile or exact copy, and fax technology uses ordinary phone lines to send copies of printed material from place to place. If you stick fax technology on your computer, what you send may never touch paper. It can go from your computer to theirs or to their fax machine if they don't have a computer.

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gateway A computer that connects one network with another when the two networks use different protocols. The UUNET computer connects the UUCP network with the Internet, for example, providing a way for mail messages to move between the two networks. Also an older name for what's now called a router

GEnie An on-line service run by General Electric. If you have an account on GEnie and your mail name (not your username!) is ABC, your Internet address is

GIF A type of graphics file originally defined by CompuServe and now found all over the Net (GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format).

global kill file A file that tells your Usenet newsreader which articles you always want to skip. This file applies to all the newsgroups to which you subscribe.

Gopher A system that lets you find information by using menus (lots of menus) To use Gopher, you usually teinet to a Gopher server and begin browsing the menus.

Gopherspace The world of Gopher menus As you move from menu to menu in Gopher, you are said to be "moving around Gopherspace."

gov When these letters appear in the last part of an address (, for example), it indicates that the host computer is run by some part of a government body, probably the U.S. federal government, rather than by a company or university. (Your tax dollars at play!) Most gov sites are in the United States.

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hardware The actual, physical computer and all its wires and friends, such as the printer, the disk drive, and the modem. Pretty useless without software.

HGopher A cool Microsoft Windows program that helps you view Gopher information, including seeing graphics right on the screen.

home page The primary Web page for an individual, software application, or organization. Home pages link visitors to other pages related to the site.

host A computer on the Internet you may be able to log in to by using teinet, get files from by using FTP, or otherwise make use of.

HTML Hypertext markup language, used in writing pages for the World Wide Web. It lets the text include codes that define fonts, layout, embedded graphics, and hypertext links. Don't worry: You don't have to know anything about it to use the World Wide Web.

HTTP Hypertext transfer protocol, which is the way World Wide Web pages are transferred over the Net.

hypermedia See hypertext, except think about all kinds of information, such as pictures and sound, not just text.

hypertext A system of writing and displaying text that enables the text to be linked in multiple ways, to be available at several levels of detail, and to contain links to related documents. Hypermedia can also contain pictures, sounds, video - you name it. The World Wide Web uses hypertext.

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ICMP Internet control message protocol, an exceedingly uninteresting low-level protocol that Internet computers use. Used by ping.

icon A little picture intended to represent something bigger, such as a program or a choice of action or object.

InfoSeek A service that searches the World Wide Web for pages that mention a word or phrase you specify.

Internet You still don't know what it is, and you're way back here in the glossary! Yikes - we must have done a terrible job of explaining this stuff. It's an interconnected bunch of computer networks, including networks in all parts of the world.

Internet Explorer Microsoft's Web browser. If you have a Microsoft Network account, you can download it or you can buy it as part of Microsoft PLUS!

Internet Protocol See IP.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) A system that enables bored undergraduates and, occasionally, other Internet folks to talk to each other in real time (rather than after a delay, as with e-mail messages).

Internet Society An organization dedicated to supporting the growth and evolution of the Internet. You can contact it at

lnterNIC The Internet Network Information Center, a repository of information about the Internet. It is divided into two parts: Directory Services, run by AT&T in New Jersey, and Registration Services, run by Network Solutions in Virginia. It is funded partially by the National Science Foundation and partially by fees that are charged to register Internet domains. To find out more about it, point your Web browser at To FTP information from InterNIC, try

interrupt character A key or combination of keys you can press to stop whatever is happening on your computer. You might find that you have started something and don't want to wait for it to finish. Common interrupt characters are Ctrl-C and Ctrl-D. Telnet's usual interrupt character is Ctrl-].

IP Internet Protocol, a scheme that enables information to be routed from one network to another as necessary (you had to ask). Don't worry: You don't have to know about it.

IRC See Internet Relay Chat.

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Jughead A program that helps you find information in Gopher by searching Gopher directories for the information you specify; sort of like Veronica.

kl2 A type of Usenet newsgroup that contains information for elementary through high school students and teachers.

Kermit A file-transfer protocol developed at Columbia University and available for a variety of computers, from PCs to mainframes.

kill file A file that tells your newsreader which newsgroup articles you always want to skip.

link A connection. Two computers can be linked together. Also can refer to a pointer to a file that exists in another place. Rather than have a copy of a particular file reside in many places, for example, some file systems (the ones in UNIX, for example) enable a filename to point to another file. Finally, a link can refer to a hypertext link in a Web page that connects one page to another.

link-level protocol One of the seven layers of protocols defined by ISO. Sometimes referred to as the data link layer. You really, really don't care.

list server A program that automatically manages mailing lists. See also LISTSERV.

LISTSERV A family of programs that automatically manage mailing lists, distributing messages posted to the list, adding and deleting members, and so on without the tedium of someone doing it manually. The names of mailing lists maintained by LISTSERV usually end with -l (that's an el, not a one).

Lynx A World Wide Web client program that works with plain old terminals, which means that it's generally available on shell provider accounts.

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MacTCP TCP/IP for the Macintosh. Not very interesting except that you can't put your Mac on the Internet without it.

mail Pieces of paper stuffed in envelopes with stamps on the outside. This old-fashioned type of mail is known among Internauts as snail-mail, casting aspersions on your local letter carrier. Other types of mail include voice mail, which you probably already know and hate, and e-mail (or electronic mail), which is a powerful service the Internet provides.

mail server A computer on the Internet that provides mail services. A mail server usually sends mail out for you (using a system called SMTP) and may also enable you to download your mail to a PC or Mac by using a protocol called POP.

mailing list A special kind of e-mail address that remails any incoming mail to a list of subscribers to the mailing list. Each mailing list has a specific topic, so you subscribe to the ones of interest.

mainframe A large computer usually sold complete with all its peripherals and often a closed architecture (meaning not friendly to other vendors' products). Often refers to large IBM machines.

Majordomo Like LISTSERV, a program that handles mailing lists.

MBone The multicast backbone. A special subnetwork on the Internet that supports live video and other multimedia.

MCI Mail A commercial e-mail system linked to the Internet. If you have an MCI Mail account, you have both a username and a seven-digit user number. Your Internet address is or, substituting your user name or number. Watch out when you're addressing mail by name on MCI Mail - more than one person may have the same name! Numbers are safer. If a name is ambiguous, MCI Mail returns a message that gives some hints about how to find the user you want.

MERIT A regional network in Michigan. Affiliated with ANS.

message A piece of e-mail or a posting to a newsgroup.

Microsoft Network (MSN) A commercial on4ine service run by Microsoft and usable only if you have Windows 95. If your MSN username is BillGates, your Internet e-mail address is

mil When these letters appear in the last part of an address (, for example), it indicates that the host computer is run by some part of the U.S. military rather than by a company or university.

MIME Multipurpose Internet mail extension used to send anything other than straight text through e-mail. Eudora and Pine and other hip e-mail programs support MIME.

mirror An FTP server that provides copies of the same files as another server. Some FTP servers are so popular that other servers have been set up to mirror them and spread the FTP load on to more than one site.

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misc A type of newsgroup that discusses topics which don't fit under any of the other newsgroups types, such as,, and

modem A gizmo that lets your computer talk on the phone. A modem can be internal (a board that lives inside your computer) or external (a box that connects to your computer's serial port). Either way, you need a phone wire to connect the modem to your phone jack.

moderated mailing list A mailing list run by a moderator (qv., or for you non-Latin speakers, check out the definition of moderator).

moderated newsgroup A newsgroup run by a moderator (go ahead, see moderator).

moderator Someone who looks first at the messages posted to a mailing list or newsgroup before releasing them to the public. The moderator can nix messages that are stupid (in his opinion, of course), redundant, or inappropriate for the list or newsgroup (wildly off the topic or offensive, for example). Yes, this is censorship, but the Internet is getting so big and crowded that nonmoderated discussions can generate an amazing number of uninteresting messages. See also moderated mailing list and moderated newsgroup.

Monsterboard A giant Web resource for job-hunting.

Mosaic A super-duper all-singing, all-dancing program that lets you read information on the World Wide Web. Comes in Windows, Mac, and UNIX flavors.

Motif A graphical user interface for UNIX computers, sort of like Windows for the PC. Claimed to be ugly.

MSN See Microsoft Network.

MUD Multi-user dungeon; a "dungeons and dragons" type of game that many people at a time can play. These games can get so complex and absorbing that players can disappear into their computers for days and weeks at a time. For information about how to join a MUD, consult the newsgroup rec. game s. mud. a nnoun ce or send a request to be added to the mailing list to

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name server See domain name server.

NetLauncher CompuServe's software package that enables you to connect to your CompuServe account as a PPP account. NetLauncher includes Spry Mosaic, a Web browser.

Netscape The first company to scare Microsoft. Netscape's world-class World Wide Web browser has taken the planet by storm.

network Don't get us started. Lots of things are called networks, but for our purposes we're talking about lots of computers that are connected together. Those in the same or nearby buildings are called local area networks, those that are farther away are called wide area networks, and when you interconnect a large number of networks all over the world, you get the Internet!

news A type of Usenet newsgroup that contains discussions about news-groups themselves, such as news.announce.newusers (announcements of interest to new users). Also used to refer to Usenet itself.

news server A computer on the Internet that not only gets Usenet newsgroups but also lets you read them. Programs such as Free Agent, Trumpet, and Cello use a news server to get the articles for the newsgroups you request.

newsgroup A distributed bulletin-board system about a particular topic. The Usenet news (also known as Net news) system distributes thousands of newsgroups to all parts of the Internet.

newsgroup kill file A file that tells your newsreader which articles you always want to skip. This file applies to only a specific newsgroup (see also global kill file).

newsreader A program that lets you read the messages in Usenet newsgroups and respond if you are absolutely sure that you have something new and interesting to say.

NIC Network Information Center. The address of the one for the U.S. part of the Internet is An NIC is responsible for coordinating a set of networks so that the names, network numbers, and other technical details are consistent from one network to another.

NIS Formerly known as the Yellow Pages, before some trademark lawyer in the United Kingdom complained. The NIS is a facility used on some TCP/IP networks to administer a group of computers (usually UNIX workstations and PCs) as through they were one big computer. For Internet purposes, who cares? Well, NIS sorts incoming e-mail on some UNIX systems and can cause peculiar-looking mail addresses.

NNTP server See news server.

node A computer on the Internet, also called a host. Computers that provide a service, such as FTP sites or places that run Gopher, are also called servers.

NSFNET The National Science Foundation's former network, a part of the Internet devoted to research and education and funded by government money. It has gone away, replaced by pieces of commercial networks. ANS, which formerly ran the NSFNET, now belongs to America Online.

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Open Book Repository A collection of on-line text, including the text of books, journals, and other reference materials, maintained by the Online Book Initiative at

packet A chunk of information sent over a network. Each packet contains the address it's going to, the address of who sent it, and some other information.

packet driver A small program used on DOS and Windows PCs to connect network software to a particular kind of network card. Similar to NDIS or ODI driver.

page A document, or hunk of information, available by way of the World Wide Web. To make information available on the World Wide Web, you organize it into one or more pages. Each page can contain text, graphics files, sound files - you name it. Don't worry: You don't have to create WWW pages - you can just read them.

pager A feature in Archie (and other programs) that breaks up the data Archie displays into chunks that fill up only one screen at a time, enabling you to read what's there before it scrolls off the screen.

parameter A value a computer program needs to know in order to behave correctly.

password A secret code used to keep things private. Your account on the system that connects you to the Internet is no doubt protected by a password. Be sure to pick a code that is not obvious, preferably combining numbers and letters so as to thwart any untoward activity.

password file The file in which all the passwords for a system are stored. Most systems are smart enough to keep passwords encoded so that even if someone gains access to this file, it isn't of much value.

pine A UNIX-based mail program based on elm. (It stands for pine is not elm.) Pine is easy to use, at least for a UNIX program.

ping A program that checks to see whether you can communicate with another computer on the Internet. It sends a short message to which the other computer automatically responds. If you can't "ping" another computer, you probably can't talk to it any other way either.

PKZIP A file-compression program that runs on PCs. PKZIP creates a ZIP file that contains compressed versions of one or more files. To restore them to their former size and shape, you use PKUNZIP. PK, by the way, stands for Phil Katz, who wrote the program. PKZIP and PKUNZIP are shareware programs available from many FTP sites. If you use the programs, you are honor-bound to send Mr. Katz a donation (the program will tell you the address). If you use a Windows computer, you will probably prefer WinZip, which has nice Windows-y menus and buttons. You can get it via FTP from in the /winzip directory.

POP Post Office Protocol, a system by which a mail server on the Internet lets you pick up your mail and download it to your PC or Mac.

port number On a networked computer, an identifying number assigned to each program that is chatting on the Internet. The program that handles incoming telnet sessions uses port 23, for example, and the program that handles some other service has another number. You hardly ever have to know these numbers - the Internet programs work this stuff out among themselves.

posting An article in a Usenet newsgroup.

PPP Point-to-point protocol, a scheme for connecting two computers over a phone line (or a network link that acts like a phone line). Like SLIP, only better.

Prodigy A large on-line system run by IBM and Sears. If you have a Prodigy account, your Internet address is (substitute your username for username).

protocol A system two computers agree on. When you use a file-transfer protocol, for example, the two computers involved (the sender and the receiver) agree on a set of signals that mean "go ahead," "got it," "didn't get it, please resend," and "all done." The Internet involves tons of different protocols for the many different types of computers on the Net that interact.

pseudoterminal A fake terminal. On most systems, telnet uses a pseudoterminal to log you in and run your commands.

public-service provider A time-sharing or SLIP service that enables you to use the Internet on a paying (by the month or hour) basis.

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RCP Remote copy, a UNIX command that lets you copy files from one computer to another. Like FTP, only different.

rec A type of newsgroup that discusses recreational topics, such as rec.humor.funny (jokes that are sometimes funny) and rec.gardens (guess).

regex method Search criteria for the advanced geek. See regular expression.

regular expression Not what one would usually think of as regular. For UNIX hackers and those who love to encode the ordinary into arithmetic representation. Many kinds of conditional searches (meaning, under these conditions, "do this") can be represented by using mathematical expressions. If you haven't studied much math or logic, forget about it.

router No, not a power tool used for finish work on fine cabinetry (that's pronounced "rowter"). This system, pronounced "rooter" in most countries, connects two or more networks, including networks that use different types of cables and different communication speeds. The networks all have to use IP (the Internet Protocol), though. If they don't, you need a gateway.

RTFM Read the manual. A suggestion made by people who feel that you have wasted their time asking a question you could have found the answer to another way. A well-known and much-used FTP site named contains FAQs for all Usenet newsgroups, by the way. Read the, uh, friendly FAQ.

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sci A type of Usenet newsgroup that discusses scientific topics.

search engine Software used to find stuff, particularly on WALS and the World Wide Web.

security In the computer world, a means to allow access to only those who should have it. Security includes the use of passwords to protect your account.

serial line A connection between computers using the serial protocol.

serial port The place on your computer where you can plug in a serial line.

serial protocol The simplest way to send data over a wire - one bit at a time.

server A computer that provides a service to other computers on a network. An Archie server, for example, lets people on the Internet use Archie.

service provider An organization that provides access to the Internet. Your service provider might be a commercial on-line service such as America Online or CompuServe, a shell provider, or your school or workplace.

shareware Computer programs that are easily available for you to try with the understanding that if you decide to keep the program you will pay for it and send the requested amount to the shareware provider specified in the program. In this honor system, a great deal of good stuff is available, and voluntary compliance makes it viable.

SimTel A computer that used to contain an amazing archive of programs for MS-DOS in addition to Macintosh and UNIX. Run by the U.S. Army in New Mexico, it was shut down in 1993. Fortunately, its files live on in mirror (duplicate) archives at and For more information, see SimTel's Web page at

Slip Short for Serial Line Internet Protocol, a software scheme for connecting a computer to the Internet over a serial line. For example, if you can run SLIP on your personal computer and you call up an Internet provider that does SLIP, your computer is on the Internet, it's not just a terminal - it's right on it. You can telnet and FTP to other computers; when you get files, they arrive back on your PC, not on the Internet provider's computer.

SMTP Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, the optimistically named method by which Internet mail is delivered from one computer to another.

soc A type of newsgroup that discusses social topics, covering subjects from to soc.religion.buddhist to soc.culture.canada.

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socket A logical "port" a program uses to connect to another program running on another computer on the Internet. You might have an FTP program using sockets for its FTP session, for example, while Eudora connects by way of another socket to get your mail.

software Computer programs that make computers usable as something other than a paperweight. Compare to hardware.

spam Originally a meat-related, sandwich-filling product. The word now refers to the act of posting inappropriate commercial messages to a large number of unrelated, uninterested Usenet

Spintlink One of the large commercial networks in the Internet, run by Sprint (the telephone company).

SpintMail An e-mail system provided by Sprintnet and formerly named Telemail. Believe it or not, if you have a SprintMail account, your Internet address is / G=firstname/S=Iastname/O=company/ C=countrycode/A=TELEMAIL/ Substitute your first name, last name, company name, and country code (us for United States folks).

string A bunch of characters strung together, such as "Internet For Marsmedia." Strings are composed of any characters available in the character set being used, typically all letters, digits, and punctuation.

Stuffit A compression program for the Mac. subdirectory A directory within a directory.

substring A piece of a string; see also string.

SURAnet One of the regional networks originally set up to work with the NSFNET; its headquarters are in Florida.

SurfWatch A program that censors your Internet account. Used by parents who want to control what their kids see on the Net.

System 7.5 The latest, most feature-laden, Macintosh operating system.

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talk A type of newsgroup that contains endless arguments about a wide range of issues, such as talk.gossip and talk.rumors.

TCP/IP The system that networks use to communicate with each other on the Internet. It stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, if you care.

telnet A program that lets you log in to other computers on the Net.

terminal In the olden days, a terminal was a thing that consisted of a screen, a key-board, and a cable that connected it to a computer. These days not many people (not many people we know) use terminals, because personal computers are so cheap. Why have a brainless screen and keyboard when you can have your own computer on your desk? Of course, there are still many times when you want to connect to a big computer somewhere. If you have a personal computer, you can run a program that makes it pretend to be a brainless screen and keyboard - the program is called a terminal emulator, terminal program, or communications program.

terminal emulator See communications program and also terminal.

terminal program See communications program and also terminal.

text file A file that contains only textual characters, with no special formatting characters, graphical information, sound clips, video, or what-have-you. Most computers other than some IBM mainframes store their text by using a system of codes named ASCII, so this type of file is also known as an ASCII text file

third party Sometimes you buy your computer from one place and your operating software from somewhere else, but you find that you still need other hardware or software pieces to make it all work. The people from whom you buy those other pieces are known as third-party vendors.

thread An article posted to a Usenet newsgroup, together with all the follow-up articles, the follow-ups to follow-ups, and so on. Organizing articles into threads makes it easier to choose which articles in a newsgroup you want to read.

threaded newsreader A newsreader that enables you to choose articles by thread.

TIA The Internet Adaptor, nifty software that makes your regular dial-up account look like a SLIP or PPP account. Also thanks in advance, for you acronymophiles.

Trumpet A moderately cool newsreader program that runs on computers which run Windows. We like Free Agent better. Trumpet is only slightly related (in that it was written by the same guy) to Trumpet WinSock, a separate program that provides TCP/IP connections for Windows PCs.

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UNIX An operating system everyone hates. No, an operating system everyone ought to love. No, it's both! It's an operating system that can be confusing to use, but it sure is powerful. Internet users are likely to run into UNIX if they use a shell provider as their Internet provider or when they telnet to UNIX computers.

upload To put your stuff on somebody else's computer.

URL Uniform Resource Locator, a way of naming network resources and originally for linking pages together in the World Wide Web. Luckily, you don't have to know much about them - only the people who write pages really have to fool with them.

Usenet A system of thousands of distributed bulletin boards called newsgroups. You read the messages by using a program called a newsreader

UUCP An elderly and creaky (but cheap) mail system still used by many UNIX systems. UUCP stands for UNIX-to-UNIX-copy. UUCP uses mail addresses that contain exclamation points rather than periods between the parts (and they are in reverse order), a method known as bang path addressing. Whenever possible, use regular Internet addresses instead.

uuencode/uudecode Programs that encode files to make them suitable for sending as e-mail. Because e-mail messages must be text, not binary information, uuencode can disguise nontext files as text so that you can include them in a mail message. When the message is received, the recipient can run uudecode to turn it back into the original file. Pretty clever.

UUNET A formerly nonprofit organization which, among other things, runs a large Internet site that links the UUCP mail network with the Internet and has a large and useful FTP file archives You may encounter it in addresses that contain u u n e t . u u . n e t at the end. The organization also runs Alternet, one of the larger commercial network providers.

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V.32 The code word for a nice, fast modem (one that talks at a speed of 9600 bits per second). Even faster modems (that talk at, 14,400 bits per second) are called V.32bis, which is French for V.32-and-another.

V.34 The code word for really fast modems that talk at 28,800 bps.

VAX/VMS Digital Equipment's major computer line over the past 15 years was the VAX; its proprietary operating system is known as VMS. (Vaxen are now pass6, replaced by DEC's new Alpha line.)

Veronica A program that helps find things in Gopherspace a friend of Archie's.

version creep A problem that occurs when lots of people add features to programs that people are already using. Unless care is taken to keep programs compatible, sooner or later the program you're using doesn't talk to its "new and improved cousin" until you get the latest and greatest version that should make everybody happy 'til they add more features again.

viewer A program used by Gopher, WAIS, or World Wide Web client programs to show you files that contain stuff other than text. For example, you might want viewers to display graphics files, play sound files, or display video files.

virus Software that infects other software and causes damage to the system on which the infected software is run. You should download software only from reputable servers. Safe software is everyone's business. Viral infection can be deadly. Don't let it happen to you.

VT100 The part number of a terminal made about 15 years ago by the Digital Equipment Corporation. Why do you care? Because many computers on the Internet expect to talk to VT-100-type terminals, and many communications programs can pretend to be (emulate) VT-100 terminals. The VT102 was a cheaper version that for most purposes acted exactly the same.

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WAIS Wide Area Information Servers (pronounced "ways," not "wace"), a system which lets you search for documents that contain the information you're looking for. It's not super easy to use, but it gets there.

Web The World Wide Web. "The Web" is a term of endearment used by those intimate with the World Wide Web.

Web page The basic building block of the World Wide Web. Information displayed on a Web page can include highly sophisticated graphics, audio and video, the locus of contemporary creativity Web pages are linked together to form the World Wide Web.

Web server An Internet host computer that stores Web pages and responds to requests to see them. Web servers talk to Web browsers by using a language named HTTP.

Web site A location on the World Wide Web. It means the same as a Web page or Web server, depending on whom you ask.

WELL The WELL (the Whole Earth Lectronic Link) is a public Internet provider in Sausalito, California. You can contact it at

whois A command on some systems that tells you the actual name of someone, based on the person's username. See also finger. You can use whois by way of the World Wide Web.

Windows An operating system for the PC that includes a graphical user interface; also a religion.

Windows 95 A new instance of an operating system for the PC that includes a graphical user interface. Quietly introduced in the summer of 1995, it includes built-in support for TCP/IP, the lnternet's networking scheme. Originally code-named Chicago.

WinGopher A Windows program that lets you see Gopher pages.

WinSock WinSock (short for Windows Sockets) is a standard way for Windows programs to work with TCP/IP. You use it if you connect your Windows PC directly to the Internet, either with a permanent connection or with a modem by using SLIP or PPP.

WinWAIS A Windows-based program that lets you use WAIS to search for information about the Internet.

WinZip A Windows-based program for zipping and unzipping ZIP files in addition to other standard types of archive files. WinZip is shareware, so you can get it from the Net from

workstation Although this term gets bandied about in a bunch of different contexts, we generally mean high-powered microcomputers with big screens, somewhat overkill for the average PC user. We mean such things as SPARC stations and other typically single-user but very powerful machines, generally running UNIX.

World Wide Web (WWW) A hypermedia system that lets you browse through lots of interesting information. The best-known client is Netscape; Mosaic is a close second.

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X.25 A protocol that defines packet switching. You shouldn't care. The thing that TCP/IP is much better than.

X.75 The way you splice together X.25 networks, which shouldn't interest you either.

X terminal A terminal that uses the X graphical user interface. This interface enables you to open lots of windows on your screen and do all kinds of things at the same time. Popular in the UNIX world.

xarchie A version of Archie that runs on UNIX under X Windows. If you use a UNIX workstation and Motif (or another windowing system), try typing xarchie to see whether you have a copy.

xgopher A version of Gopher that runs on UNIX under X Windows. If you use a UNIX workstation and Motif, try running xgopher.

Xmodem A file-transfer protocol developed ages ago (1981?) by Ward Christiansen to check for errors as files are transferred. It has since been superseded by Ymodem and Zmodem, but many programs (especially Windows Terminal) still use it.

xwais A version of WAIS that runs on UNIX under X Windows. If you use a UNIX workstation and Motif, try running xwais.

Yahoo An index to the World Wide Web, at

YellowPages See NIS.

Ymodem A file-transfer protocol that's faster than Xmodem but not as powerful (nor as complicated) as Zmodem.

ZIP file A file that has been created by using WinZip, PKZIP, or a compatible program. It contains one or more files that have been compressed and glommed together to save space. To get at the files in a ZIP file, you usually need WinZip, PKUNZIP, or a compatible program. Sometimes you may get a self-extracting file, which is a ZIP file that contains the unzipping program right in it. Just run the file (type the name of the file at the command line), and it unzips itself.

Zmodem A fast file-transfer protocol defined by Chuck Forsberg, used by many programs. With Zmodem, you can transfer several files with one command, and the names of the files are sent along with them. Some communications programs (such as ProComm) can detect when a Zmodem transfer has begun and automatically begin receiving the files. Nifty.

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