Before the World Wide Web made it easy to navigate the Internet, it was still a fascinating place for the non-programmer, even it was all green text on a black screen.
I wrote these tips for friends and students as a primer to using the Internet in March 1993. Of course, in hindsight one can see major movements in seed form here, from chat, to Google, to Wikipedia, to social media groups. These ideas are not new, just their implementations. And email is still the killer app 25 years later. ("Ursa" is the name of Unix computer at Calvin College, where I worked at the time.)
Here's a list of neat stuff to do on URSA and the net. This is hardly a complete or comprehensive list. It's just to point you in a few directions for experimentation.
1) E-mail. (type "elm" or "pine")
Private messages between users.
elm is a nice reader, but pine is easier for the new user. Both are far better than "mail". For elm, Type 'help' or '?' for more info. Remember ctrl-x ctrl-c to save and exit the text editor (emacs). Learn to use aliases when you're comfortable with the basics.
2) Net News. (type "nn")
Otherwise known as USENET. Public discussion groups on more than you care about.
You will probably begin subscribed to *each* topic. Since there's several hundred topics available, you should probably start by unsubscribing to most of them (type "U" [capital-U]).
Understand that each news group is named according to a hierarchy. Most groups start with comp (computers), rec (recreation), sci (science), soc (social), and even alt (alternate).
Calvin doesn't get the alt groups, because they tend to be frivolous.
Type '?' for a help screen.
3) E-Mail mailing lists.
Private Discussion Groups on various topics. Mail to a given address gets redistributed to everyone on the list.
You need to first ask to be added to any given list, which means you must first know their address. That's the tricky part.
See news.answers and gopher below.
Look up info on another user or computer.
type "finger" at the URSA prompt to see who's on.
type "finger" name to see details about people's accounts.
try "finger kosts"
type "finger @computer" to see who's on another computer like URSA.
type "finger @uther" (which is another Calvin computer)
type "finger @ucsbuxa.ucsb.edu" (U of CA at Santa Barbara)
type "finger firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeff Veen's account)
Like finger, w(hat) will show what people are actually doing.
Type 'talk name' to start a "live" discussion with someone.
type 'talk kosts' if Steven Koster is on, or
type 'talk AccountName' of someone you know.
If you know someone at another school (or finger their computer
to get their name) you *may* be able to talk them.
Not all Talk programs are compatible.
Realize you may be interrupting their work, so be gracious.
Some people have talking disabled to avoid distractions.
Write a message directly to another user's screen, even if he's doing something. Great for pranks, so most people have writing disabled.
Type 'write kosts' <return>
hi steve! You're so smart!
<ctr>-D to end message
Run another computer system from here. Of course, you may need
an account on the other computer before you can do anything.
Type 'telnet w' to access Calvin's W system (the old WordMarc word processing system...)
type 'telnet otherSchoolsComputer' if you happen to have
an account somewhere else.
File Transfer Protocol will connect you to another computer
and let you get (download) or put (upload) files.
Good way to find information, especially on things
computer/college geeks care about.
Also good resource of programs and such for IBM PCs, Macintoshes, Amigas, etc.
Of course, you need to know the address of the computer you're trying to connect to. Finding those is the fun part.
You have to login after connecting to another computer.
Usually you use 'anonymous' as login name and your own
user id (i.e. email@example.com) as a password.
type "ftp" (you'll get an "ftp>" prompt)
type "help" to see a list of commands
open connect to a computer
ls list files and directories
cd change directory
bin use binary transfer mode(protects data a little better. Good idea to use)
get <filename> Download file
mget Download multiple files
hash print '#' on screen for each packet of data received (watch your progress).
Gopher is a clearinghouse of information access.
It is, to some extent, an easier way to find a lot of the information
described in the above methods. It will connect to other computers
for you, and retrieve information.
type 'gopher' and you can use a series of menus to
connect to various places and retrieve information.
Some of gopher's menu items are not available,
even though they appear on your screen. Try em and see.
Unfortunately, the information available is not organized
by topic or anything obvious, so a good deal of trial
and error maybe necessary before you find what you want.
Then again, it might be right there in front of you.
Veronica is a relatively new addition to gopher,
and it solves many of gopher's organizational problems.
It will search gopher's resources for a keyword you give.
news.answers is a newsgroup (accessible through 'nn' described above)which is often a gold mine of information.
It contains the Frequently Asked Questions (& answers)
from all the other news groups. These FAQs are often
nice summaries of basic info.
Since there are news groups for everything from Twin Peaks to FORTRAN
to Skydiving to Philosophy, it is often a *VERY* good place to find
info on most topics. If not direct answers, you'll find leads to
FTP sites or Informed Individuals who can help.
Most groups update and post their FAQs once a month.
The individual groups themselves are a great resource if you can find them. There's tons more.
But you'll just have to experiment to find it all.
There's a book called _Zen_and_the_Art_of_the_Internet_ which has more
details. It's available in Bookstores, and also for Anonymous FTP.