The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks. The origins of the Internet date back to research commissioned by the United States government in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant communication via computer networks. This work, combined with efforts in the United Kingdom and France, led to the primary precursor network, the ARPANET, in the United States. From the early 1990s, the network experienced sustained exponential growth as generations of institutional, personal, and mobile computers were connected to it.
The World Wide Web (WWW) allowed for text, images, videos, and other multimedia components to be used across the Internet by using web pages and viewing the content on a web browser. Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist and former CERN employee, is considered the inventor of the Web.
Internet Service Provider:
An 'Internet Service Provider' (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing the Internet.
An ISP usually provides software, a username & password, and a telephone number for Dial-up Internet. You can buy a modem and then log on to the Internet. For Broadband Internet the ISP usually supplies a Modem Router which allows you faster access to the Internet.
Accessing the Internet:
There are several ways to access the Internet today including the following:
Dial-up Internet gives you slow access to the Internet and you typically have a maximum theoretical transfer speed of 56kb/s. You need a modem and an ISP to provide you with software, a username & password, and a telephone number. The modem plugs into the computer usually via a USB connector, and into a telephone socket. While you are accessing the Internet, you cannot use you telephone to make or receive calls.
ADSL Broadband Internet:
Broadband Internet is much faster than Dial-up. You will need an ISP who usually supply an ADSL Modem Router. The modem plugs into your computer via a network cable or by using Wi-fi, and the Modem Router connects to the telephone socket via a micro-filter. The speed that you can achieve depends on your distance to the local telephone exchange. Advantages over Dial-up include much faster speeds (from about 0.5Mb/s to 8Mb/s+), and you can also make and receive calls on your telephone whilst also using the Internet. There is also no need for a telephone number to dial into as the ADSL modem is permanently connected. ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) means that the download speed will be much higher than the upload speed.
Cable Internet is a form of Broadband Internet access that uses the cable television infrastructure. You will need a Cable Modem Router to access the internet. The speed is usually faster than Broadband Internet but the speed depends on how many people are connected to the Cable Internet in your area at the same time, as the bandwidth is shared. Cable Internet is only available in areas that have Cable TV.
Fibre Optic Broadband:
Fibre Optic Broadband is usually much faster than ADSL Broadband Internet or Cable Internet. Your ISP should include a Modem Router(s) which connects to your computer via a network cable or by using Wi-fi, and the Modem Router connects to the master telephone socket via a new faceplate. There are two types of Fibre Optic Broadband including FTTP (Fibre to the Premises), and the more common FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet). FTTP uses fibre optic cable from your house to the telephone exchange which allows for very fast speeds, while FTTC uses the existing copper wires from your house to the nearest street cabinet and then fibre optic cable from the cabinet to the telephone exchange. The advantages over ADSL Broadband Internet is faster speeds (FTTC from about 38Mb/s to 76Mb/s, and FTTP much faster), and the speed is not limited by your distance to the local telephone exchange but only by the cabinet for FTTC. However, you can only use Fibre Optic Broadband if it is available in your area.
Satellite Internet allows you to access high speed Internet in rural areas where Cable, ADSL Broadband, and Fibre Optic Internet are not yet available. This can be an expensive way to access the Internet and you will need a Satellite modem connected to a satellite dish mounted on the roof of your house. The speed is usually slower than Cable, ADSL Broadband, and Fibre Optic Internet. It also suffers from high latency (a delay of about 1 second) because of the long distance that the signal has to travel to an orbiting satellite, which would make on-line gaming impossible or cause a delay when using video conferencing.
You can use an Internet Dongle which a small device which plugs into your USB port and accesses the Internet through the Mobile phone network via 3G or 4G. They can be useful for accessing the Internet away from your home or office. 3G is relatively slow although 4G is much faster but is more expensive. Coverage is dependent on mobile phone reception which means there may be some blackspots, and data limits are usually small when compared with home broadband.
Wi-Fi Hotspots are becoming increasingly common in many public places and allow you to access the Internet with a Laptop, Tablet, or Smart Phone. They are very useful but there is a cause for concern regarding security. If the Wi-Fi is not secure (does not need a password) then other users could gain access to your information so it would be unwise to enter personal or financial details over an unsecure Wi-Fi connection.
Internet Usage is the total amount of data that you upload and download in a month.
Your ISP may restrict the amount of data that you can download on the Internet each month, and if you exceed this amount then you will be charged extra. It is a good idea to find out what your average Internet Usage is per month, and to upgrade to a higher usage limit or have unlimited Internet usage.
The speed at which you can download or upload data to the Internet is measured in Megabits per second (Mb/s). For example, if your computer can download data at 40Mb/s then dividing this number by 8 (40 divided by 8 = 5MB/s) will tell you that you can download 5 Megabytes of data per second. Note that a small 'b' denotes a bit, and a large 'B' denotes a byte, and that there are 8 bits in a byte.
The speed that your computer can download from the Internet may be less than the ISP's advertised speed due to various factors depending on the type of Broadband you are using. Your ISP may have a tool that you can use to measure your download and upload speeds or you try 'www.speedtest.net'