In 1995, the Internet Explorer was released. At that time everybody surfed the web with browsers such as Mosaic or Netscape. The AEGEE-Europe homepage was just one year old, nevertheless, around 35 AEGEE locals had already own webpages. The Internet was young, but AEGEE embraced its opportunities with full speed.

People working on the three computers in the first AEGEE-Europe headoffice

Or better: a part of the network did. Some countries or universities invested a lot in their technological infrastructure, others not. Especially in the South and the East of Europe. In 1996, the CD discussed whether the paper mailing should be reduced and the CD newsletters be sent out by e-mail. At that time each antenna received a few times per year a fat envelope from the CD, sent via the University of Delft, the city where AEGEE had its headoffice until 1995. The content of the envelopes: Agora booklets or minutes, brochures, flyers from antennae, nice big event posters and other stuff. The proposal to send out more things via e-mail were turned down, because it would have meant to cut off a part of the network from information.

One year later, in November 1997, I became Network Commissioner. My first mission was to contact each of my locals in Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia and to introduce myself. In two cases I had to do this by phone, because they did not have an e-mail account. When I called the President of AEGEE-Oradea, she invited me to their local members’ recruiting day. There they told me that hardly any student at the university had e-mail. The few who had an account, didn’t get it from the university, but from companies.

In order to write mails from home, I had to dial into the university with my 28 Kbit/second modem. Just imagine: it transferred 3.5 Kilobyte per second. Today’s webpages could not have been displayed at that time. I could also go to the university to check my mails. If I was lucky, I didn’t have to wait. At other times, I had to wait up to 20 minutes. Frequently the connection broke, so everything got lost! A lot of mails started with: “I wrote you a long mail, but then the connection crashed…”

In this atmosphere Michal Rudziecki, the first CD member from Poland, wrote an article for the AEGEE News Bulletin about the Internet – and how AEGEE members can use it. Today, this text appears 50 years old, but in fact it’s just 16 years…

Have fun reading it!

Gunnar Erth

 

Internet: your potential friend

You must have already met this word somewhere…it is mentioned time and again every day in the media; often abused by the press. Every magazine and even a daily paper tending to be up-to-date and popular seems to publish something, from just a few words to a long article on Internet in each issue. One can easily make out from all that fuss that Internet is undergoing a period of fast development, being used in more and more applications. Also some social groups are very prone to use this word in an ordinary conversation. It’s simple: Internet is conquering our world in the same way as once radio or television did. Therefore it’s not so easy to avoid getting in touch with Internet. And if you don’t feel like being left behind and out-of-date, better make friends with it and you will find that this friendship can prove advantageous for you.

Those of you who have already had some contact with Internet may smile at this a little pathetic preface but for the newcomers Internet seems to be a synonym of black magic. Everybody has to start with at least basic knowledge of the matter. This article is mostly written by someone who has a smattering of knowledge on Internet (but isn’t certainly an expert) for those who treat it as a great unpenetrable riddle.

Is it possible to define Internet in just a few words? There are already dozens of books written on this subject including thousands of attempts to define it. However, let me try. Internet is a world-wide network of computers, connected by various means: telephones, cables, radio waves etc. The computers use the same ‘language’; all the users are equal and autonomous (actually, Internet is no one’s property and is governed by no one).

Michal Rudziecki, the first Polish CD member

The first step for each of you will be probably obtaining an account. You will easily find it at almost every university in Europe that has got a computer centre. Some of them provide their services for free (only for students, of course), some charge a small monthly amount of money; unfortunately this second tendency is spreading nowadays like a hurricane. The second possibility is to buy an account in a commercial network, governed by a firm charging also a monthly fee. In this case you need a computer with a modem at home. Obtaining an account may take a while (in Warszawa it may last even up to a few weeks); once you get it, the world stands wide open for you. You get so-called ‘userid’, which may serve as your Internet nickname and in some cases you may be known world-wide under this nickname. Practically, your userid together with the server address separated by @ is your address, having almost the same application as the one you write on an envelope. You have to memorise it, together with the password you are supposed to invent for yourself in order to prevent the account from strangers’ eyes.

The most obvious and common application of Internet is e-mail (which stands for electronic mail, as contradiction to snail mail, i.e. ordinary mail). The rule is the same; first you write a letter and afterwards you mail it. The difference is that you don’t use a pen nor a typewriter: the basic device is a computer. Moreover, it’s much quicker than any kind of ordinary mail; the message is usually delivered in a few minutes within Europe. It’s a really gorgeous means of communication: you can exchange a few letters within one hour, provided that each of you is ready to receive the message and answer it, sitting in front of the computer screen. You can also send the same message to a given number of Internet users without re-writing it every time: you just send it to a discussion list address. By the way; discussion list is a group of -mailers interested in the same topic (like for instance hamsters or mountain-bikes or NATO or whatever) that exchange ideas and information in this way. As you can see, it’s a nice opportunity to find electronic pen-pals or even real friends.

If you have a plenty of time to spare, you can also use a ‘virtual cafe’ called IRC (Internet Relay Chat). It’s a constant meeting point for cybermaniacs spending hours on discussing on various topics. At first glimpse this conversation, visible on the screen may seem incomprehensible. That’s not true – it’s only question of time. You will be able to use ‘smileys’ (like famous :-) , :-( , ;-) ) and the special Internet dialect like everybody else. You just have to join one of the ‘channels’ of discussion. You can also practice languages in this way as some of the conversations are in French, Russian or Finnish.

If you need Internet for more serious reasons, it can always prove useful for you in some way. For instance, one can use numbers of databases to be found somewhere in the cyberspace, libraries full of pictures, jokes and documents (like photos of Cindy Crawford, maps of Israel as well as full text of Bern Convention), computer programmes that you can copy for free on your own floppy disc and so on.

The most important obstacle is time. You need a few hours every day if you really want to get involved and become an Internet expert. I know people who literally spend their lives in the computer centre. Be careful then and good luck in cyberspace!

Michal Rudziecki
AEGEE-Warszawa

Read more new from the past here: http://www.central.aegee.org/~erth/goldentimes/?p=2894

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