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 – Image by Falco
- 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.
|Period||Pioneering Example||Main Use||Useful links|
941 – 1969: Pre-internet era
|Programmable Electronic Computer (Z3 Computer)||Create and use data|
1969 – 1979: Institutional internet era
|Arpanet||Send and get data|
1979 – 1989: Procedural internet era
|Prestel||View 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.
Let's discuss each element in the above diagram.
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 – 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.
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.
A modem is a piece of electronic device that converts analog signals to digital signals and vice versa.
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.
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.
The internet is simply a wire through which data get shared between numerous devices.