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Curt Phillips, C.E.M., is Senior Project Manager with Houston-based CES/Way, a Sempra Energy Solutions Company. A specialist in energy management, he has been on-line since 1983.
The explosion of interest in the Internet over the past few years has caused a concurrent explosion in the amount and quality of information available there. And all of the interest and activity has led to excessive media coverage, exaggerating both its problems and capabilities beyond reality.
Amid all of the hype, a little history about the "information superhighway" is useful. The genesis of the Internet was an experimental communications network for the Department of Defense in the 1960s. It expanded to include connections to the academic and research world in the 70s and became known as "the Internet."
During the 1980s, completely independent of the Internet, an amalgam of on-line computer resources had been established for public use. These included privately operated computer "bulletin boards," most of which were free to all with a local phone call. Many bulletin boards exchanged mail nationally and internationally through one of several private networks.
Also available to the general public were commercial, fee-operated services such as CompuServe and later, Prodigy and America Online. As the Internet became more accessible, many of the commercial services became Internet Service Providers (ISPs). While bulletin boards are almost extinct, the Internet has become a worldwide network of computers through which information can be exchanged and accessed.
The "network" they communicate across is generally not a set of dedicated wires or fiber-optic cables, but rather a …