I figured I might as well join in to this “throwback Thursday” thing by posting interesting articles from the past.
So to start off, I found one I wrote back in 1997. I remember this one well. The whole thing sounds pretty silly now. It’s hard to believe that’s where we started.
Who remembers dial-up and logging in? Getting booted off? And how about ICQ? Weren’t those the days? Look how complicated it all is now? But also how amazing.
A few short months before I wrote this article, my nephew took me to a meeting at the Bruce Mines Library where they were going to talk about the Internet. I’d only gotten a computer a couple months before that so it was hard to even fathom what it was all about. After that open house, I was very excited. I’d seen some demos and tried a couple of search terms. I could see a whole new world opening up in front of me. How exciting?
As soon as the internet became available, I signed up. I can’t even remember what it cost but I think it was fairly expensive–especially for dial-up. Of course, did dial-up matter? I had a 200 mb hard-drive–top of the line at that time!
Anyway, enough reflection, here’s that story. It’s lengthy so you may not be into reading it all. If you do (or not), please share your thoughts in the comment section.
In line with Throwback Thursday, I wanted to include a couple of photos. I don’t have the ones that accompanied this article since I didn’t have digital back then and I’m not about to go searching for the original article tonight. So instead…since it was just Thessalon Community Day a few weeks ago…let’s flash back to our family float back in 2001.
Now, how fun was that? We used to do fun floats every year. Then our kids grew up.
Here’s another float from that year.
How about those cute little Ridley kids riding on their daddy’s sawmill?
Anyway, enough of that. Here’s the article which practically missed Thursday:
What’s the attraction?: It’s taking off in the District and here’s what it’s all about
Why in the world would anyone want to go on the Internet? Ever asked that question? Ever been there? If you’re one of the nearly 40 customers hooked up through AlgomaNet alone (that’s the service provider and we’ll get to them shortly) you’re already familiar with the internet — but may still find out some facts here you didn’t know.
What Is the Internet?
The Internet, often called the “net” for short or the information highway, is a network of networks that allows for sharing of information.
Randy Sweetnam, owner of WRS Communications in Bruce Mines and also one of the CAP (Community Access Program) volunteers for Bruce Mines and Area Net (BMAN) refers to the net as a “communications tool with lots of tools in it.”
Sweetnam says the net is another source of information and you have to be as critical picking out information as you are picking out a book or reading graffiti.
“The Internet is a connection of computers that gives you the ability to pull files to your computer from any other machine hooked up to the system,” says Tom Stephenson, who looks after internet support and training for the Soonet Corporation.
“It has something for anyone who has a question,” he states.
The Internet started in the 1960s as a communications network for the United States military and eventually spread to universities, information technology corporations and then to businesses, schools and individuals around the world. The term “internet” began being used in 1982 when the “internet protocol” (IP) was launched.
How Do You Get On?
Stephenson says just about any computer will work.
“Although a 386 with Windows 3.1 leaves few limitations, an old XT will still be able to do a bit but will be more text-based.”
A modem is also required to hook your computer to your phone line. Then, you need to subscribe to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). There are different types of providers including the big commercial ones like America Online, but AlgomaNet is the only commercial provider in this area that offers a local calling number.
Your provider usually supplies you with software needed to hook up to the system and once that’s installed, you’re ready to dial in.
Once you call in to the local number in Bruce Mines, you enter or “log on” to the internet.
Monthly fees vary depending on the number of hours you wish to subscribe for and extra hours are charged to your account. Soonet provides the local group with the service and subscribers actually sign up through their Sault Ste. Marie office.
Remember, being on-line ties up your phone line so call answer service or extra phone lines may be options you’d want to look at.
If you’d like to check out the internet but don’t have a computer or don’t want to sign up yet, there are a couple of options.
Three computers are available at Bruce Mines Public Library for free public access during Library hours, says Randy Sweetnam.
As well, Stephenson says everyone is welcome to visit their Soonet office in Sault Ste. Marie for a demonstration.
“A demonstration is far more enlightening than any amount of explaining,” says Stephenson. “Experiencing first hand for yourself is the best way to find out what it’s all about.”
And Sweetnam points out that Bruce Mines Library offers one on one training on Thursdays from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 11:30 to 3:30 p.m. He says appointments are preferred and can be made by calling the Library at 785-3370.
So What’s On The Net?
While it’s virtually impossible to explain everything that can be found on the net, imagine it as a massive library with information available in text, graphics, sound and other means.
“This is where the information is now, not at the library,” says Stephenson. “That’s not to say that libraries are becoming unnecessary. Their focus will be changing,” he says. “There will never be any comparison between reading for pleasure on a computer screen and sitting down with a good book.”
As far as the net, there are hundreds of thousands of websites accessible on as many subjects.There are sites for crafts, cooking, magazines, newspapers, job searches, schools, on-line courses, games, hobbies, statistics, government agencies, schools or any other subject you might be interested in. Each page has an address, often recognizable by the “www” at the beginning. Addresses are seen on television commercials and in print media on a regular basis.
Other tools available include e-mail or electronic mail which allows transfer of information from one computer to another or several in seconds and chat lines where you can actually talk with someone on another computer virtually anywhere. Other options are quickly learned once you have internet access.
“There are different levels of data and lots of secondary data although more and more raw data is coming,” explains Sweetnam.
When you start up the dialing process, the AlgomaNet homepage appears on your screen. Currently under reconstruction by CAP, Sweetnam says a new format of the homepage will reduce loading time and will allow them to tie marketing and an index to the front page.
Bruce Mines and Area Net (BMAN), the name chosen for the CAP project is now selling rental space on the server which allows anyone to add their own web page. Policies and costs will be posted on the new webpage which Sweetnam says they hope to have up and running by the first of April.
When you log on currently, you are greeted with the AlgomaNet welcoming screen. After a short loading time, you can scroll down the page and see an image map of the area. By clicking on various shaded areas, you bring up other pages. And although most are still under construction, the Bruce Mines and Plummer Additional area does have a variety of information on their pages.
Further down the page are a variety of search engines which will take you to the rest of the world. Once you start clicking, you’re “surfing the net”.
The Dangers of the Net
“If you think just being on the net will bring maniacs to your door, it’s not going to happen,” says Stephenson. “And no one can get in and blow your computer up, although it is possible to download viruses when downloading information from the net.”
He also says giving out information such as credit card numbers is a concern but no more than it should be handing your card over at a gas bar.
“As far as pornography, the good far outweighs the bad. It just doesn’t seem like it when the bad stuff is what makes the news,” he observes.
Stephenson says he does have concerns of children seeing things they shouldn’t.
“Parents should be aware of what their children are doing. Setting them up with a computer and internet access alone in their bedrooms is not always a good idea,” he says.
While things are running smoothly so far, Sweetnam and Stephenson both say they may have to look at installing more lines in the near future.
Stephenson says the ratio is usually one phone line for every 10 customers. In Sault Ste. Marie, Soonet has about 900 customers and that number is increasing rapidly. They currently have about 80 phone lines which will be increased to 94 shortly.
At AlgomaNet, there are four phone lines and nearly 40 customers.
Stephenson says the lines have a hunter capability and the busy signal works on the same basis as Bell Telephone systems. “Remember a few years ago when you couldn’t get a phone call through on Christmas Day.”
“Already there are reports of busy signals although they could be contributed partly to the novelty for the many new subscribers,” Stephenson says. AlgomaNet started in mid-November and at that time, the CAP committee said they had a goal of 20% of households being on-line in another year and a half.
That would be 80 households out of a possible 400 and they are already halfway to that goal.
Stephenson says while busy signals are often in a specific time period such as early evening, Soonet can’t base their mathematical theory on a three hour time period.
“Essentially, we need more customers to increase service,” he explains.
Several other CAP sites have been approved for funding by Industry Canada and Sweetnam says confirmation of contracts are expected in the next few days. Communities receiving approval include Iron Bridge, Thessalon, Thessalon First Nation, Richard’s Landing, Johnson Township, Laird, Tarbutt and Hilton Beach.
He says the area CAPs should be up and running by mid-March and could expect to be on line sometime between June and August.
“Each of these sites are independent and can go to other servers if they wish,” he explains.
And Stephenson says while he’s not sure where things are headed, their concern is the costs.
“It might be wise for these groups to push east to Iron Bridge as a complete network allowing the largest group possible to have local access while keeping their costs of setting up and operating down,” he says.
He estimates that up to half of the AlgomaNet customers are from the Thessalon area and says they could switch locations when Thessalon gets it’s own server.
“I’m confident a solution will be found that works for everyone,” he says.
Local Internet Courses
By the time AlgomaNet was up and running, over 90 people had been trained in two adult and two children’s internet courses. More have been held since that time and there are several scheduled for the coming weeks.
A PD Day Kids Camp will be held February 28 followed by a Children’s Computer Lab on March 8. An advanced skills course for adults will be held March 15 and a hardware workshop is scheduled for April 12. Registrations are taken at Bruce Mines Library and numbers are limited.
The CAP newsletter also suggests going to www.internic.net for information and registration for 27 free lessons through the Roadmap listserv on teaching yourself the tools of the internet.
Discover the Net
“Two of our volunteers have just discovered e-mail,” laughs Patty Stienburg, Librarian Assistant in Bruce Mines. “One is corresponding with her kids in different cities.”
She says the computers are in frequent use at the Library and says they often get requests to look up information.
“Kids use them a lot and we limit them to half hour periods when it’s busy,” she explains.
She says people come in that have never used computers and once the staff and volunteers start them off and show them what to do, they have no problems.
And Stephenson says there’s nothing to fear.
“Although the internet is most popular with younger people, more and more older people are coming on,” he says. He estimates most users range in age from the teens up to the 80s.
“People say kids are smarter. They’re not smarter. They just don’t have the fear or hesitation because someone might call them stupid.”
.And that was my contribution to Throwback Thursday.
I’ll try do it again soon.