First of all, you’re going to need a computer. In the past this would probably have been a desktop or laptop system, but in recent years the range of usable devices has expanded to include netbooks, tablets and smartphones. It’s also possible to access the Internet directly from your television set if you have an Internet-enabled TV.
Unless you’re connecting from a mobile phone you’re also going to need some kind of telephone line. With current technology this is likely to be a broadband link, using either an ADSL or Fibre Optic connection. ADSL means Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Link – don’t worry too much about it. The “Asymmetric” bit means that upload and download speeds are different. Uploading is generally much slower as most users download far more than they upload. If you have a Fibre Optic link this will probably be used for Cable TV as well.
You’re also going to need special hardware to connect to the telephone line. If you are using an ADSL connection you’ll need an ADSL Router, while for a Fibre Optic connection you’ll need a Cable Modem.
You’ll also need an account with your Internet Service Provider (ISP), who will probably be your telephone company, for example, BT, or your Cable TV company, for example Virgin Media.
Finally, you’re going to need a piece of software called a browser to allow you to connect to the internet. The most popular browsers at present are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
As mentioned earlier, all of the above applies if you are connecting from home. If you are connecting from a school, college, or workplace then things will be a bit different. You will probably connect via a Local Area Network (LAN) or Virtual Private Network (VPN) and make use of the organisation’s Internet account.
Visit the Learn the Net web site for an animated display about connecting to the Internet. You may also find some of the other topics on this page interesting.
Next: Getting Online