Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Guide to the Internet: Introducing the Internet

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 25 November 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1422
  1. Mark Pallen, senior lecturera
  1. aDepartment of Medical Microbiology, St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, London EC1A 7BE
  1. aCorrespondence to:

    The benefits to medical practitioners of using the Internet are growing rapidly as the Internet becomes easier to use and ever more biomedical resources become available on line. The Internet is the largest computer network in the world; it is also a virtual community, larger than many nation states, with its own rules of behaviour or “netiquette.” There are several types of Internet connection and various ways of acquiring a connection. Once connected, you can obtain, free of charge, programs that allow easy use of the Internet's resources and help on how to use these resources; you can access many of these resources through the hypertext references in the on line version of this series (go to to reach the electronic version). You can then explore the various methods for accessing, manipulating, or disseminating data on the Internet, such as electronic mail, telnet, file transfer protocol, and the world wide web. Results from a search of the world wide web for information on the rare condition of Recklinghausen's neurofibromatosis illustrate the breadth of medical information available on the Internet.

    Imagine a working environment where, without moving from your desk in, say, London, you could:

    • Consult colleagues worldwide on a clinical problem at the click of a mouse1

    • Send a draft of a paper to coauthors half a world away and receive their amended versions of the paper later the same day

    • Read dozens of journals without paying a single subscription charge2 3

    • Brush up on your continuing medical education by, say, studying magnetic resonance imaging in Florida4

    • Retrieve a DNA sequence file the day that it is published5

    • Hold real time discussions with researchers from North America, the Middle East, and continental Europe6

    • Browse through a bookshop's catalogue, then order and pay for your …

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