In the mid 1960's, during the Cold War, the Department of Defense felt the need for a bombproof communications system. Thus, the concept of linking computers together throughout the country emerged. The motive was to keep communications open even if traditional methods of communications were destroyed in the event of a nuclear war.
Initially, only certain government entities and a few universities were linked. The system was operated by the Department of Defense's Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA). The whole operation was referred to as ARPANET.
Eventually, ARPANET computers were installed at every university in the United States that had defense related funding. Gradually, the Internet had gone from a military pipeline to a communications tool for scientists. As more scholars came online, the administration of the system transferred from ARPA to the National Science Foundation.
Years later, businesses began using the Internet and the administrative responsibilities were once again transferred. Currently there are several entities that "oversee" the system and the protocols involved with the Internet.
The speed of the Internet has transformed the way people receive information. It provides immediate and in-depth news, current weather, a virtual library of information and the ability to communicate real-time.
There are several ways to access the Internet. You can use an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Wild Apache or you can use an On-Line service like America On-Line. Be aware that when you use an On-Line service there may be long distance phone charges involved.