Education And Debate

ABC of Medical Computing: THE INTERNET

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 12 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:440
  1. Andrew Millman,
  2. Nicholas Lee,
  3. Kevin Kealy

    The Internet is a huge network of computers that spans the globe. It originated in the late 1960s from an American military project which was intended to provide reliable communications in the event of a nuclear war. The network started with just four computers but grew rapidly over the next few years. An estimated 40 million computers are now connected to it, and this number is growing by about 10% each year. Although access was originally restricted to government departments and organisations such as universities, the Internet has recently been opened up to everybody. It is now used by people and organisations from all walks of life including commercial organisations, university departments, hospitals, and medical schools, as well as agrowing number of individual users dialling in from home.

    What does it do?

    The Internet is best regarded as a framework which allows the free exchange of information between computers. With new services and users connecting to the network every day, it is becoming increasingly valuable as an information resource and communications superhighway. Among other things, it is now possible to access thousands of databases at universities and other research centres all over the world, read electronic journals, view and buy products from numerous companies, exchange news and views on a wide range of specialist subjects, and send virtually instantaneous electronic mail to any organisation, company, or individual connected to the internet.

    Services available on theInternet

    • Information browsingCommercialNon-commercial

    • Electronic mail (email)

    • File transfer

    • Newsgroups

    How do I get on to the Internet?

    Accessing the Internet is very easy. You need a computer and a modem connected to a telephone line, and you will also need to contact an Internet service provider who will supply you with suitable software to load on to your computer, an Internet telephone number and password, an email address, and access to a help desk. Good software will store the telephone number of …

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