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Network Connection

By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Associate Director of Academic Computing

Pop Quiz

School is back in session. it's time for your Internet pop quiz. Take out a number 2 pencil and a piece of paper and answer the following questions. You can earn partial credit, but only if your responses are in the form of complete sentences. Now, let's begin.

1. How old is the Internet?

If you answered 35, then you are correct. On September 2, 2004, the Internet officially turned 35 years old marking the anniversary of the first communication between two computers in a UCLA engineering lab. Who knew on that fateful day in 1969, that such a little network would grow up to allow us to buy every kind of collectable imaginable on EBay? (Don't answer that -- it's just a rhetorical question.) See this article  for further study on this topic.

2. True or False: the World Wide Web was the first Internet application?

Sorry, the answer to that is "False." There were plenty of Internet applications before WWW came into existence, the most popular of those being e-mail and its various support applications, not to mention telnet and ftp. You get partial credit if you mentioned those and extra credit if you explained how Gopher was much more popular than WWW for a while.

3. Name three good uses for SPAM.

That's a trick question. There aren't three good uses for SPAM, unless you mean that canned meat product, in which case "running gag throughout one whole Monty Python show" does count as a correct answer (partial credit). I suppose if you want to test the capacity of your e-mail system, then SPAM may be useful, but only in the most annoying way. It is especially interesting to note that since the U.S. Congress passed the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 to discourage it, the amount of SPAM on the Internet seems to have increased.

4. Choose the most correct answer: my Internet e-mail messages remain private because of the following reason.

a. I only send messages to my friends.
b. I use an in-house system for all my e-mail.
c. I encrypt all my e-mail.
d. My boss can't read my e-mail.
e. None of the above.

Ooh, so close! The answer is actually "e. None of the above." Why? Well, once you send an Internet e-mail message you lose all control over it. Your friends may decide they just have to share it without you knowing, it's easily forwarded outside of an in-house system, and even if you encrypt it, somebody has to decrypt it to read it and if they can do that, they can forward it on in plain text to whomever they wish. It's true that encrypting e-mail can make it more secure in transit, but once it has been decrypted, it's just like any message. And, yes, your boss can read your e-mail on the company-owned system. There's plenty of case law which supports an organization's control over their business e-mail system.

5. True or False: Microsoft invented the Internet.

You weren't paying attention or think that Bill went to UCLA? Nope. Bill was a Harvard man before he dropped out and went on to found Microsoft, market a simple BASIC compiler, complain about software pirates, sell an OS he didn't have to a very gullible IBM, and go on to become the richest man in the U.S. (if only that had been my idea, SIGH). Of course, Microsoft was very late to recognize that that Internet thingy was going to go anywhere and have spent the last 10 years trying to catch up. Just this year they've realized that not everyone using the Internet is a good guy like them. The answer is False, but partial credit if you said that they just think they did.

How did you do? Well, you'd better keep studying. It's going to be a long semester.  

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