Technology | The Internet

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Learn more about the internet and practice your English listening skills as you do it in this new Technology episode from English Plus Podcast.

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Do you play computer games over the Internet? Do you surf the Web? Do you send e-mail messages to your friends? You can get all kinds of information on the Internet. People use the Internet to work at home. Scientists use the Internet to help them do research. The Internet has made big changes in the way many people live and work.


The Internet is a system that connects computer networks. The Internet links millions of computers all over the world. It allows your computer to get information stored on other computers far away. Some networks have only a few computers. Some networks have thousands or even millions of computers. Computers connect to the Internet through telephone and cable systems.

Many governments, big companies, and other organizations have intranets. The computers on an intranet are hooked up to the Internet. But only people who work for the organization that owns the intranet can use it. Other people on the Internet cannot see what is on the intranet computers.


The Internet grew out of a computer network called ARPANET. The United States military created ARPANET in the 1960s. From the 1970s until the late 1980s, the U.S. government only let a few scientists and people in the military use it. In the 1980s, the government let networks at universities join with ARPANET to create the Internet. The Internet grew quickly. Schools, libraries, local and state governments, companies, and families were on the Internet by the mid-1990s.

At first, it was hard to get information from the Internet. You could only see words and numbers on your computer screen. Then a British computer scientist named Timothy Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in the 1980s.


The difference between the Internet and the Web is sort of like the difference between highways and a delivery service. Delivery service trucks use highways to move packages from one place to another. The Web is like the delivery service. The Internet is like the highways. Information traffic from the Web travels over the Internet.

The Web is made of places called sites. People use special computer programs to make the sites. The sites are stored on computers called Web servers. Each site is made up of documents called Web pages. These Web pages can have text, pictures, sounds, and videos.

You need computer software called a Web browser to find and see Web pages. Each Web page has a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). The URL is like an address that the browser looks for. An example of a URL is:

Many computer experts think that the Internet became so popular because of the Web. The Web is easier to use than the Internet by itself. By the end of 2000, more than 80 percent of all traffic on the Internet highway came from the Web.


Billions of people use the Internet every day. In 1981, only 213 computers were connected to the Internet. By 2003, more than 216 million computers were connected to the Internet.

No one knows for sure exactly how many people use the Internet. Computer experts thought that there were 61 million Internet users worldwide at the end of 1996. There may have been from 700 million to 900 million users by the end of 2003. And the number grew substantially to an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the internet in 2020.


You get on the Internet by joining a computer network. The network that you join is called an Internet service provider (ISP). Xfinity, Verizon, AT&T and Spectrum are popular ISPs. You pay a fee to the ISP just as you pay a phone company to use their telephone system.

The company that owns your ISP sends you software to install on your computer. The software lets you use the ISP’s network to get on the Internet.

There are different ways to connect your computer to the ISP. You can hook up your computer with a modem and your home telephone line. This is called dial-up access. You can hook up to the ISP with a digital subscriber line (DSL) or a cable modem. A DSL uses the same wires as your telephone. A cable modem uses the same wiring that cable television uses. DSLs and cable modems bring Web pages to your computer screen much faster than a dial-up connection.

DSLs and cable modems are called broadband connections, and they are considered among the highest speed internet connections available. There are also other types of internet connections that vary in speed based on the service subscription and the network itself. For example, there is the wireless, mobile, hotspot, satellite and ISDN.

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