The Internet Explained!

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Martin French

You’re using it right now but how much do you really know about it? More to the point how much do you need to know about it? The Internet is now an ever present entity which stores literally billions of pages of information on any subject that you care to mention. But a little knowledge, although a dangerous thing, can be a useful thing too. Take our hand as Article19 answers some of the fundamental questions to help you on your way.

We are a dance company, why should we care about the internet?

Well we just wrote an article about that for the weekly aside so read that as it explains all.

OK! So how does it work then?

Well to be honest you really don’t need or probably want to know that but essentially the Internet is nothing more than several hundred million computers all linked together like some Heath Robinson nightmare on Prozac. If you are working on an office network right now then the Internet works in almost exactly the same way. When you visit a website by tapping a URL into your web browser you are simply transferring the information from the computer the website lives on into your own computer.

It really is that simple and is all you really need to know about how the technical side works. It should be pointed out that the internet works a little slower than your office network because you could literally be transferring information from several thousand miles away and it will have to travel through 15-20 different systems before it gets to you. In spite of that though it is still fairly speedy.

URL? Browser? What are those?

URL is short for Universal Resource Locator. This is nothing more than the web equivalent of a telephone number but is often easier to remember.

The URL for Article19 is www.article19.co.uk. The WWW stands for, wait for it, World Wide Web and the rest of it is our personal location in cyberspace. Sometimes you don’t even need the WWW bit (and that includes us) but if in doubt use it.

And a browser?

The browser is what you are using right now to read this web page. Web pages are nothing more than lines of computer code that you web browser interprets into the nicely formatted text and images you see before you right now. There are many browsers around at the moment but the two most popular are Internet Explorer from Microsoft and Netscape Navigator from Netscape. Both of these browsers are free from their respective creators and you should really use the latest version of either of these if you want to get the best out of the internet.

Why is that then?

The website you are reading now is what the web developer fraternity call Standards Compliant. Web standards are a method of making websites available to absolutely everybody using clearly defined methods and practices for design and coding web sites.

In order to be able to understand web sites that are created with this in mind you need a newer browser that can understand the information designers include in their site and can interpret that information properly. What this means for you is a website that is faster and easier to use but more importantly it means we can easily make this website accessible to those with visual impairments or even the blind by altering one simple element of the site design so a screen or braille reader can interpret the information we provide.

Article19 is currently working on making that happen. The more users out there with modern standards compliant browsers the better.

[2004 Update] Web browsers have moved on. The major players are Internet Explorer, Safari (Mac Only), Mozilla, Firefox and Opera.

OK, I’m doing that now, honest! So Broadband, what’s all that about then and why is it so expensive?

Broadband is all about one thing; Speed. If you are using a dialup connection right now then you are connected to your internet service over the phone line. Since the telephone system was never intended to carry digital information it is very slow and unreliable.

Broadband fixes that problem by using the appropriate technology to transfer the large volumes of information down special cables and directly into your home. Telewest uses a fibre optic network to connect their subscribers to the internet. This means that you can transfer information anything up to 20 times faster than you could when using a dialup connection. Essentially one of the videos on Article19 would take about 90 minutes to download using dialup, the same process is completed in 4 minutes using broadband.

It costs more because it’s faster, simple really. We should point out that British Telecom uses a system called ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) which is essentially a fudge (is that another technical term, Ed!) and is not proper broadband at all. It simply uses the existing telephone network and piggy backs the internet information along the same copper wire as your phone call. It costs too much and is unreliable to say the least.

Hmm, I like the more speed idea, will my email be quicker as well?

Yes it will, you will be able to send bigger files in your emails as attachments and do it far quicker. The person at the other end may have to wait a while to download your email if they still have a dialup connection when you send them those obscene holiday snaps from some god forsaken tourist resort.

Since we’re talking Email how does that work.

Well, the acronym is of course short for Electronic Mail. Your email address is just like your home address and is completely unique to you so [email protected] is not the same as [email protected]

When you send an email your ISP uses its computers to look up that address and makes sure the email goes to the right place at the same time it is checking to see if you have been sent any email and if you do your computer then downloads it so you can read it.

There you go again! ISP?

Internet Service Provider. This is the company that you pay money to in order to physically get connected to the internet. They have very expensive equipment in some top secret HQ (or a run down warehouse in Barnsley, Ed!) that actually takes care of the complexities of sending and receiving your email and making sure that the websites you visit can be sent to your computer.

ISP’s like everything else follow the rule of “you get what you pay for”. So choose your ISP wisely especially if you are getting broadband access.

So how many people are hooked up to this thing then?

Projections for 2004 say about 945 million people worldwide will have access to the Internet in one way or another. That figure is roughly 13 million times larger than the average dance audience for a contemporary dance performance.

[ As of 2006 approximatley 70% of the UK population has Internet Access at home. 5-6 million poeple have access to broadband at home ]

That’s a lot!

Yes it is.

Random Dance do live Webcasting, can I do that?

Random would have you believe that such thing is the cutting edge of technological development when in fact anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of camera and internet technology can get the whole show on the road very easily.

The only problem is that dance and web casting do not mix at present because you just cannot transfer enough information fast enough, even with a high speed connection. So what you end up with is a fuzzy, stop motion load of nonsense and it isn’t really worth it (so it’s like watching Random normally then? Ed!). Better off with the way we do it of which more will be revealed next week.

[ 2006 - sadly this still applies today. Web streaming live video is a very hit and miss affair and the quality is still terrible ]

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