The Internet Companion was the first computer trade book to introduce the world to the wonders of the Internet. When it made its debut in 1992, it immediately became a best-seller. Even though today there are other sources of information about the Internet, including training classes and videotapes, new users still look to the Companion for guidance and help in getting to know and use this "network of networks."
How times have changed! Back in 1992, few predicted the great Internet wave, which ever since has been building momentum, gathering speed. Not long ago, you could recite the "anonymous FTP" sites from memory, whereas today, there are hundreds of thousands of places to download files, retrieve software, and access online books and services. Only five years ago, people cited IP addresses instead of host names, and there were no graphical user interfaces presenting the Internet as "the Emerald City." Now, in many cases, you don't even need to know computer names, let alone addresses; you just point and click on colorful icons. Although previously you could only complain about the government in online political forums, now you can send email to the president and vice president in Washington, as well as retrieve the latest White House press releases and initiatives. It used to be that you could only talk about movies in online forums; today the Internet transmits live video broadcasts and radio shows, as well as movies.
In short, the Internet is continuously changing, growing, and improving, and it is having a tremendous impact on our lives. It's not just a physical computer network anymore, but a publishing medium, a communication channel, and a library. Yet it's both advanced and primitive. As Bruce Sterling, a science fiction writer and Internet philosopher once said, "Everyone has a different Internet." What it is to you depends on your expectations, the networking resources available to you, and your motivation to use it. Whatever your fancy, this book will get you started. It introduces you to Internet concepts, applications, and idiosyncrasies and offers you glimpses of how people are using it for the mundane and the marvelous.
This book contains numerous examples and sample commands to try. In general, computer names and email addresses by themselves appear in italic, while new terms are introduced in boldface. Some of the commands are a mixture of bold and italic; in those cases, you should type anything in bold or italic exactly as it appears. The italic represents variable input that only you can supply, such as your email address or your login name.
Keep in mind that although many instructions and examples are given in these pages, this book does not offer step-by-step directions for every case. Remember also that new services are being made available daily, and that even though the resource information was up-to-date when the book went to press, it is very likely that some of it will have changed by the time you read it. Always read any instructions that are given when connecting to an online database, and if you have problems, consult your Internet provider's helpdesk or consulting services.
You may feel as though you're about to be thrown into the ocean with your shoes tied together. But come on in—the water's fine! Millions of people are surfing on the Internet, and you can too. And while you're hanging ten, don't forget to drop me a line: Tracy LaQuey. Numerous Internauts have written to tell me how The Internet Companion helped them and how they use it, and I look forward to hearing about your Internet adventures.
Many people helped make this book a reality. In particular, I wish to thank Patrick D. Parker, Laura Fillmore, Tim Evans, Eugene Bailey, Mic Kaczmarczik, Guy Steele, Ed Kozel, Virginia Bechtold, David O'Leary, Susan Estrada, Susan and Peter Rauch, Al and Sheri LaQuey, Gerald and Valerie Parker, and all the people who sent me stories about how they use the Internet.
Copyright © 1994 by Tracy LaQuey and Editorial Inc.