I’m sure many of us using computers today can remember back when you had to go to the Library to research a foreign topic. When was the last time someone actually used their Library card? I wonder if they even still teach how to use a card catalog in school these days? Then along came the Internet, and it has grown and grown and grown. Internet Definition: The global communication network which allows all connected computers to exchange information. That simply means that you can use your computer to send an email to your friend in China. I remember before the Internet gained popularity my stepdad would “Dial In” to dashboards to exchange files and programs. Things have gotten a lot better these days. Thankfully.
A little possibly confusing but interesting techno garble, each device communicating on the Internet needs what’s called a “Public IP Address”. The current version in use is IP Version 4 or IPV4. This version provides about 4.3 billion IP addresses. Well, they ran out back in January of 2011. Luckily someone came up with the idea of using “Private IP Addresses” and with the use of a routing protocol “NAT”, Network Address Translation, you can network thousands of devices behind a single Public IP. So one can only imagine how many computers and devices there are actually connected to the Internet. Among all of these devices are Web Servers. Web Servers are the computers which house the majority of publicly available information or “Web Pages”. In order to view these web pages you need a “Web Browser”. The powerhouse in the beginning was Microsoft with “Internet Explorer” and now you have many choices like Apple’s Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and more.
Anyways, so now you have a web browser. You have access to billions and billions of pieces of information at your fingertips. How do you find what you’re looking for? The answer: Search Engines. Without search engines the Internet wouldn’t be as effective as it is today. The top 4 search engines are Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask. Google has become so popular the phrase “Just Google It” refers to any search on the Internet. A Search Engine takes a simple request that you type in and compares it to all of the billions of records out there and delivers you possible choices called “Hits” to review. The more general your request, the more unrelated hits you will get. For instance, the difference between searching for red flower as opposed to Red Rose. While you will still get millions of hit’s for Red Rose, the more you can specify what you are looking for, the more useful your hits should be. You can really drill it down by searching images for long stem red rose with a butterfly. I just searched that and got more pictures of long stem red roses than I did butterflies. To tie this back in to the Library, it’s the equivalent of visiting every main Library in the world in a matter of seconds. Pretty amazing, huh? What’s even more amazing is that now days you can also do that from your phone!!
In the end it’s difficult to quantify the value of this information overload. The beauty is that it’s mostly free. The danger is that it’s mostly unregulated. Just because you “saw it on the Internet” doesn’t actually mean it’s true. So be diligent about checking sources and as always a little common sense goes a long way. Even still, the next time you have a question or are pondering something, I recommend you Google It!