Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Got What It Takes to Get Online? Have a Pencil and Pad Ready!

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Got What It Takes to Get Online? Have a Pencil and Pad Ready!

Article excerpt

We've all heard reasons why people get on the Internet. We know there are lots of places to go and things to do! It leaves you wondering, "Can my family do that?" The answer lies m knowing what equipment you have and what you need.

Before you go out and buy any new equipment, see if you can test out a system locally at a dealership, user group or Alliance for Technology Access center. It is important to take into account what you would like to be able to do and which of the services and features you want to be able to access, and then look for the best system that can meet Your needs at the price you want to Pay.

The good news is that families can get online using commercial services that have made connecting to the internet user-friendly, leaving the more complex paths to the Internet for technically-minded folks. The truth is, both paths will reap the same basic benefits: e-mail, newsgroups, Me searches and transfers, and the now almost infamous World Wide Web (WWW). So what do you need to get online from your home computer? Here is a checklist and giudelines to help you assess your Internet readiness.

Personal Computer

The better the equipment, the faster you will be able to access the information coming to you from the Internet. if you have the urge to keep up with the memory-hungry appetite of online sounds, video, animation and graphics, you will need a computer with a good deal of RAM (Random Access Memory or processing memory) and a lot of hard disk storage space (see the cheeklist).

Many families, however, can "do the basies" - such as electronic mail (e-mail) - with their old work-horsely computer. You may be limited in o power, however. If your older computer has a limited amount of RAM and are using a commercial service such as America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy Online, Microsoft Network, GenieNet, ask for an old it Is no longer avaliable, check with a friend or a local computer-user group. As is true with all software, the earlier versions have lower equipment requirements because they were written for older standards. Even if a newer version of the software is available on the market, you still should be able to use the older software to open an account and connect to their online services.

Here is a checklist of equipment characteristics necessary for connecting online. It includes both suggestions and things to consider in putting together a system that will allow you to access the Internet. The items included in the "Suggestions" column are not minimal available requirements, but include enough power to enable you to access all of the bells, whistles and graphics currently used on the Internet. The "Considerations" column explains other options you have and what the differences would be.


The modem is the piece of equipment that connects your computer to the Internet using your telephone line. Some modems come as part of your computer package. There are internal modems that live inside the computer and there are external modems that live outside of your computer case. Either one does the same task of transmitting information back and forth between the Internet computers and your home computer. What makes a difference is the speed of the modem. The speed Of transmission is measured in bits per second (bps). The higher the bps - the faster the modem can transmit information. This will be important to your family because it directly relates the amount of time needed to access an pull up information on your computer screen. If you have a slower modem, access may take what can seem like an unbearable amount of time.

Another factor is cost. If you are a service that charges you for the amount of time you are connected, a slower modem is going to use more time and therefore run up more service fees

Telephone Service

The computer equipment and software make up one essential component of your system. …

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