PINBALL ON THE INTERNET
By Russ Jensen
Since I have become fairly heavily involved in "the wonderful world of pinball on©line" in the past year or so, I decided it was about time that I acquaint people with what is available "on©line" as far as pingames are concerned. I have made some mention of this in my coverage of the past two Pinball Expo shows, but I've decided now to devote an entire article to the subject.
Before I get into the "pinball content" of the Internet, a brief description of the "Net" seems to be in order since some of you may not yet be "on©line" and may not know what it's all about although today with all the publicity devoted to the Internet in the media, etc., there are probably not too many who do not know at least the basics of the world of "cyberspace".
The "Internet" is a world©wide network of computers linked together by a global communication network (phone lines, communication satellites, etc.). Most large companies, educational institutions, and scientific and government organizations, have computers which directly connect to the Net. Today more and more smaller companies are also connected. In addition, there are a host of companies connected to the Net which allow smaller users (such as individuals with home computers) to connect to the Net via their computers for a monthly (or sometime hourly © although this is starting to disappear) fee. These companies are know as "Internet Service Providers" (ISP's).
Two of the most widely used services on the Net are "email" (Electronic Mail) and "The World Wide Web" (WWW). Email is a system where people all over the world can communicate with each other in a matter of minutes (or hours). Each email user has his own personal "email address" which any other user can use to send him/her personal messages (much like postal mail © referred by Net users as "snail mail") to which the recipient can, of course, respond. It still amazes me how short of a time it takes to send/receive a message from Europe/Asia! My personal email address is: email@example.com .
The World Wide Web (WWW) has been one of the primary ways to obtain information via the Internet and is rapidly becoming a major advertising medium for small and large businesses alike. "Websites" can be set up by almost anybody nowadays (sometimes you need special software © and if you are not connected directly to the Net your ISP has to provide this capability). Almost all large corporations, and many small companies and individuals, have websites. ((Each website has an "address" (known as a Universal Resource Locator", or URL) which a person types in to access that site. After information from the site is retrieved by your computer the "main page" of the site is displayed, often containing some graphics (company logos, etc.) and textual information regarding the person/outfit hosting the site. The user in most cases can select additional information to be displayed or can "link" (transfer control) to other websites that the site owner thinks are informative.
The appearance and amount of information which can be presented at a given site is only limited by the software used to create the site, the ingenuity of the person who sets it up, and in cases where an ISP provides webpage capability to it's subscribers, the amount of computer storage allowed to each subscriber.
URLs for websites are probably familiar to most people nowadays who watch TV or read advertisements, and are most commonly in the form © www.companyname.com. "www" meaning, of course, World Wide Web, 'companyname' is of course the name of the outfit that sponsors the site, and "com" indicates that it is a "commercial" outfit. Other common URL suffixes for websites and email addresses are: .edu (educational institution), .gov (government agency © even the White House has a website), .org (private organization), and .net (primarily an Internet provider © although many of these use ".com").
There are also some ISPs which enable their subscribers to set up what are known as "homepages" which are almost identical to websites, except they don't have "www" (which I understand means that that outfit has a computer specifically devoted to the World Wide Web) in their URLs. For example, the URL of my personal homepage is: http://members.aol.com/rusjensen . (the "http://" is a prefix telling the network what "format" the information to be received is in © and actually stands for "hypertext transfer protocol"). That prefix, by the way, is also used for all World Wide Web sites as well, but is often not shown, it being assumed.
Another popular feature on the Internet is known as "Usenet Newsgroups", usually just referred to as "newsgroups". These are sort of "electronic message boards", each devoted to a particular subject © there are newsgroups devoted to almost any subject you can imagine! People "post" messages to the newsgroup posing questions or comments involving the subject of the particular group. Other people reading these "postings" can then attempt to answer those questions or make further comments (either agreeing or disagreeing with the original comment.)
Most software which reads these newsgroups attempt to group all postings with the exact same subject together, producing what are known as "threads" © often these "threads" consist of 10 or more related postings. The newsgroup dealing with pinball is ( (called "rec.games.pinball" (recreation © games © pinball), but more about that later.
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