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Internet Explained – What Exactly Is the Internet?

The internet is a means through which data get shared between two or more computers.

In other words, the internet is like a conveyor transporting goods from one location to another.

Photo of conveyors transporting goods.

Photo of conveyors transporting goods – Image by Falco

note
  • Inter- means "between."
  • Network means "connection."
  • Internet means "connection between computers."

Timeline of the Internet

The internet is an age-old invention spanning through various eras and usage. The table below summarizes the main timeline and use of the internet.

PeriodPioneering ExampleMain UseUseful links

941 – 1969: Pre-internet era

Programmable Electronic Computer (Z3 Computer)Create and use data

1969 – 1979: Institutional internet era

ArpanetSend and get data

1979 – 1989: Procedural internet era

PrestelView data statically

1989 – Present: Dynamic internet era

World Wide Web (WWW)View data dynamically

Let's now see a graphical representation of the internet.

Graphical Representation of the Internet

The internet is simply a wire, buried underground or underwater, that connects computers. It is this wire that facilitates the communication between two or more systems.

What is the internet?

The internet is a wire sharing data between multiple computers.

Let's discuss each element in the above diagram.

Server

A server is a special computer connected directly to the internet.

A server's main job is to store documents (such as webpages, videos, audio, and images) until other computers request them over the internet.

In other words, a server is like a warehouse where goods are stored until people request them.

Photo of a flower warehouse

Photo of a flower warehouse – Image from Pixabay

Every server has a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address that helps servers find each other.

Note that your personal system (laptop or desktop) is not a server because it is not connected to the internet directly.

Your personal computer is a client.

Client

A client is a device connected to the internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

For instance, laptops, cars, and smart glasses are clients because you can connect them indirectly to the internet through an ISP.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company providing services that connect personal and business devices (such as phones, desktops, and televisions) to the internet.

Bear in mind that all devices need a modem to ensure a successful connection to the internet.

Modem

A modem is a piece of electronic device that converts analog signals to digital signals and vice versa.

note

The term "modem" means modulator-demodulator. In other words, a modem serves to modulate and demodulate internet signals.

Devices such as desktops, tablets, and smartphones can only read digital signals. However, the internet reads only analog signals.

Therefore, a modem is an essential gadget that helps convert the internet's analog signals to the digital signal your systems understand.

Suppose you only need to connect one device to the internet. In that case, you can plug that device's network cable directly into your modem.

However, to connect multiple devices, you need a router.

Router

A router is a piece of electronic device that routes (directs) the internet to all your devices after you've used a modem to convert the internet's signal from analog to digital.

Note that it is not compulsory to use a router. In other words, suppose you only need to connect one of your devices to the internet. In that case, you can plug that device's network cable directly into your modem.

However, suppose you need to hook up multiple devices to the internet. In that case, connect the gadgets to a router through an ethernet cable or wireless connection.

info
  • Most modems now come with a built-in wireless router. So, you do not need to buy a modern and a router separately.
  • Besides the internet, Bluetooth and ultra-wideband are other means through which two or more computers can share data.

Overview

The internet is simply a wire through which data get shared between numerous devices.

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