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At home we have the Internet. It comes through the same cable that hooks to our TV. My neighbors have the Internet too, their mom has a lab top computer that she can move anywhere around the house. She gets the Internet to on her labtop but it is not hooked to any wires. My dad says they have a wireless LAN. Question 1: How does she get the Internet with no wires? Question 2: If we don't need wires for the Internet then why do people spend money buying them? Question 3: Is it the same Internet that people get on their cell phones?
Question Date: 2003-05-06
Answer 1:

There are many ways to design a network at home. The cable company originally sells a digital service for a price that has to be paid each month and they provide you with a device called a cable modem that will allow you to directly plug into it only one computer.

If you want to use more than one computer the cable company does not have any objection. But they also do not provide a means for you to accomplish the addition of the other computer(s). A customer can go to an outside vendor, such as Radio Shack or Circuit City to purchase one of two possible solutions:

1. A router to work with your cable modem that uses wires

2. A router to work with your cable modem that is wireless

Whichever device you choose, you will have to configure the software in that device to allow you to use two or more computers at one time. The most important part to remember is that the computer company controls only the cable modem and they will continue to send you a bill for the single connection even after you acquire a router.

A router to work with your cable modem that uses wires requires that no matter how many computers the router software allows you to attach, the computer(s) must always be physically attached to the router via a cable.

A router to work with your cable modem that DOES NOT USE WIRES does not require that the computer be physically attached to the router. This is the case at your friend's house. The router uses radio waves to talk to the computer(s) , but the router must be physically attached through a cable to the cable modem. Wireless routers have many advantages, but like hands-free telephones, they are restricted by distance and other factors that sometimes render them almost useless.

The bottom line is that no matter how you gain access to the Internet, the service must be paid for as part of the contract with the cable company.

One final note that may help to clear-up some of the confusion - wireless routers have security problems because if you are able to determine the frequency of the radio signal, an outsider can illegally hack into your expensive system and receive the service without helping your parents pay the monthly bill from the cable company.

There is one Internet but there are many ways to access it. You can access the Internet via the cable company at home and when you do the cable company controls how you get there. The same is true of a cell phone connection. When you hit the Internet button on your cell phone, a call is made to the cell phone company and they also control how you reach the Internet. >Think of it like AOL vs. another Internet service like Earthlink. If you access the Internet using AOL you'll notice that once you successfully reach the Internet, AOL has a special screen waiting for you. If you access the Internet using another company - like Earthlink when you reach the Internet a special screen from Earthlink is waiting for you. The same holds true for a cell phone call to access the Internet. Notice on your cell phone after hitting the Internet button once you reach the Internet that the cell company has provided a special screen for you to welcome you to the Internet. Bottom line - it is always the same Internet, only the welcoming screens and their associated menus are different.

Answer 2:

The Internet, like telephones, TV, and the radio are just devices that use electromagnetic radiation to transfer information.

Electromagnetic radiation is just a moving wave of electric and magnetic energy. To use this radiation, you need three things: a source to send it from, a source to let the wave travel on, and a receiver to retrieve it.

Alexander Graham (who invented the telegraph) used a cup (as a receiver), a string (as the source to travel on), and a bell (as the source that generated it) to use electromagnetic radiation. For the Internet, we use computers as a source to generate and receive this electromagnetic radiation. Cables that connect our phones (and TV's) are used to transmit the radiation from one computer to the next to transfer information.

People have discovered that electromagnetic radiation is every where, and that we don't actually need a device (like a string or cables) to transfer the radiation from place to place, we can actually just use air! This is how a radio works. You use an antenna to receive electromagnetic radiation (radio waves) from the radio station, and this allows you to listen to music.

Satellites, cell phones, and wireless Internet capture electromagnetic radiation out of the air to transfer information. So this "wireless Internet" is the same Internet that people get on their cell phones. The reason why people use cables, is because it is a lot less expensive to receive information sent over a cable, then it is to receive this information out of the air.

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