CyberCollege / InternetCampus
  Updated: 05/24/2014

Internet - 1


Internet - 1




Computers and

The Internet




History books will show that the Internet is the most significant development in communication since Gutenberg developed the printing press in 1450.

In this module we will briefly look at:

How the Internet was started
Computer Operation systems
The Internet vs. the Worldwide Web
Internet Use, Education, Race, and Age
The Internet in Education
Instant Messaging

The device shown in the picture at the beginning of this module is an abacus -- the first "computer."

An abacus takes no electricity, doesn't have to be booted up, requires no maintenance, does not get viruses, and never crashes.

The rings are flipped back and forth to represent the placement of numbers in a sequence. The abacus dates back hundreds of years and is still the preferred calculator for a few people in some countries.

>>Modern computers do the same thing -- compute numbers, albeit a few billion times faster that an abacus. In fact, the Roadrunner computer, put into service in 2008 for the U.S. military, is capable of a petaflop, which is 1,026 quadrillion calculations per second.  In case you are interested, that number can be written as 1015.

But even this speed is slow compared to computers planed for 2014 - 2015. This includes "quantum computers," that are not only faster but approach computing power from a whole new angle.

>>All of today's sophisticated software -- word processors, games, editing systems, e-mail, and even the page you are viewing -- can be reduced to a string of "0" and "1" numbers that a computer "computes." Even CD music and DVD movies consist of nothing more than combinations of these two numbers that are "computed," transformed, and then presented to our eyes and ears.


World's First Computer -

A 30-Year Secret

>>It is also widely assumed that the world's first computer was the American Eniac. Actually, Alan Turing, a British Postal employee developed the first computer in England during World War II.

Turing's computer, the Colossus, contained 1,000 vacuum tubes and was a major (although until recently very secret) factor in the outcome of World War II.

The Colossus was developed to decode critical German encrypted messages -- messages that provided information so critical that some historians say that Turning's computer shortened the war by at least two years. One historian feels that one million lives may have been saved as a result of this invention.

Although Turning was by some accounts the most important hero of the war, when it was discovered that he was gay, he was so persecuted that he ended up taking his own life.


The First Personal Computers

>>The first computers filled entire rooms and required thousands of vacuum tubes. When the transistor was invented, the size of computers suddenly shrunk to a fraction of their original size -- and this development set the stage for personal computers.

The personal computer was introduced in 1975. It was the Altair, the device that Bill Gates of Microsoft took an immediate interest in. And the rest, as they say, is history. That history is graphically shown on the right.

>>The Internet and the worldwide web are based on computers, of course. And, love them or hate them, some basic things are important to understand. But, don't worry, we're not going into a long, technical explanation on how computers work.


Computer Platforms

>>Today there are two major computer platforms or operating systems (OSs):  Windows (Microsoft) and Mac (Apple Computer). The majority of the world's personal computers use the Windows OS.

Linux, an operating system that is gaining popularity because of cost and security, runs on most machines. However, the downside is that there is a scarcity of programs designed for Linux and it is not considered as user-friendly as the Windows or Mac operating systems.

Finally, there are the operating systems associated with smart (cell) phones, which are sophisticated miniature computers in their right. They include the Android operating system, is now being used in some personal computers and tablets.

The Internet vs. the Worldwide Web

>>Although the terms Internet and the Worldwide Web are commonly used interchangeably, the worldwide web is actually only a part of the Internet. The latter includes Telnet, FTP (file transfer protocol), and other communication languages and approaches.

However, when most people speak of the Internet today they are just focusing on the Worldwide Web, the part of the Internet that displays pages such as the one you are now viewing.

" The key to optimum success in most fields today is a working knowledge of how you can use computer programs and the Internet in reaching personal and professional goals."

Who Invented the Internet?

>>Although it has been assumed that the Internet was invented in the United States, the concept actually originated in Geneva, Switzerland.

Before U.S. scientists started using the concept, scientists in research laboratories in Geneva, had linked computers together in different departments to share their findings -- a type of internal internet. Even so, it was scientists the United States that subsequently developed and popularized the concept on a much wider scale.

Today's Internet

>>Despite some increases in speed, and despite the many technological improvements, the basic Internet structure or protocol has remained about the same for decades. (Remember, if you don't know what a term means, you can double-click on it and a definition will come up. Of course this assumes you have an unrestricted connection to the Internet.)

Today, about 30% of people are still using telephone lines to access the Internet -- something that telephone circuits were never designed for.

Unfortunately, after getting an early start, the United States has fallen behind many countries in high speed Internet connections.  Many countries enjoy faster and even less expensive service. 

Speed, of course, is critical in viewing such things as movies and news clips. 

Internet Use, Education, Race, and Age

In the United States Internet use is related to education and race.

Education and Internet Use

Note in the graph on the left that while only about 22% of people without a high school education use the Internet, 90% of people with a college education do.

Age is also strongly related. In some cases grade school youths are more comfortable with computers and the Internet than many of their parents or even their older brothers and sisters.

Almost all U.S. libraries now have Internet connections.  The number of colleges and universities that require computers as part of their general curriculum continues to grow and many college dormitories are now wired for high speed Internet access.

Of course, computer use is related to Internet access. In 2014, many U.S. in rural areas still had no high-speed Internet access.  Note graph below.

Percent of U.S. Households by
Race with No Internet Access
Asian  19% red
White 27% red
Black 45% red
Hispanic 47% red

>>States vary in the percent of homes that have Internet access. The chart below shows the variation among the states.
Homes with Internet by State


By 2014 it had become clear that a lack of computer literacy and Internet access put many people at a disadvantage, not only their employment but in their daily lives.

>>For example, millions of people no longer make out checks, address envelopes, and lick stamps to pay their bills -- they simply do it all by mouse clicks.

Some banks exist only on the Internet, which often means that the money they save on offices, facilities, etc., can not only be passed on to users in the form lower fees, but these institutions can also pay higher interest rates on accounts.

>>In 2014, for the first time, the total money spend on Internet advertising exceeded the money spent on broadcast advertising.

The chart on the right shows the relative rate of advertising growth for the major media.

Advertising on the Internet has a controversial history.

Many purists originally felt that the Internet should be free of advertising clutter and influence. (The same views were originally lodged against broadcast advertising.)

Of course without advertising dollars these media would not have developed as rapidly as they did.

Even so, many people feel that Internet advertising now intrudes on content, especially on news sites where clicking on a news story or video is only available after viewing an ad.

The Internet in Education

>>As we will see, studies show that well designed Internet classes can be just as effective, if not more so, than what takes place in the classroom.

By "well designed" we are talking about interactive elements and the ability to correspond with the instructors and classmates by e-mail, Internet chat rooms, and instant messaging.


The Future of Internet Education

>>Most innovations are driven by economics.  For example, some time ago corporations found that rather than tying up personnel repeatedly training new batches of employees, computer courses, generally on the company's web site, were the most cost-effective approach to communication information.

Most mainstream higher education schools now offer Internet coursework -- some with credit, some without. (This web site was started almost 20 years ago to supplement classroom instruction at a university.)

Today, students in the United States take about one-quarter of their courses on line. There are many "colleges" and even law schools that exist entirely on the Internet.

Plus, because of the economic downturn that started in 2008, many schools (and students) find it difficult to afford textbooks.  This has meant that more and more students are turning to free Internet cybertexts -- often combining them with traditional classroom instruction.

Several major studies have found that Internet instruction is at least as effective as traditional classroom instruction.  A recent U.S. Department of Education study concluded:

" On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction."
 - U.S. Department of Education, 2009

A report by the U.S. Department of Education on 99 studies done over a 12-year period, showed that when students took courses online they did slightly better than an equal mix of students who took the same courses in a traditional classroom.*


Instant Messaging

>>Most people are familiar with the cell phone, AOL, MSN or Yahoo versions of real-time chat or instant messaging programs.  However, one of the first and biggest was ICQ.  The ICQ interface, which is similar to many of these social networking services, is shown below. The text you type is shown in one window and the real-time reply from the person you are "talking to" comes up in the other window.


>>Emoticons (shown below) can be added to your messages to spice things up -- a step up from the ;- ) versions you type from your keyboard.

Chatrooms have their own procedures and protocols, so it may take a while to get the hang of things, but, if you stick with it, a whole new world of people, places, and opportunities will open up.

Today, services such as Twitter have taken over the earlier approaches to instant messaging. (IMs).

Twitter has become the most popular form of exchanging short messages. This is a hybrid between blogging and text messaging. Limited to 140 characters of text, this is a way to give your friends a minute-by-minute account of what you are thinking and doing -- which, granted, may be much more than they want to know! 

>>In the next section we'll look at some of the internal workings of computers--especially things that govern speed and efficiency.

 *The study is Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning -  A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies and is available in the .pdf format.

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