Of course, before you can use all the cool internet stuff, you gotta get connected to an Internet service provider. In some places, organizations have a direct hard-wired link to the Internet. These lucky souls usually have very fast connections from 56 kilobits per second up to 1.5 megabits per second. Most people have to dial into a service using a modem.
To learn how to connect to the Exploratorium via PPP, Click here (Exploratorium employees only...)
Open Transport (TCP/IP)
You will need one of two system enhancements if you want to talk with machines on the Internet - MacTCP or Open Transport. Both do the same job. MacTCP is the older version for older machines and Open Transport is the latest whizbang method of internet communication. Open Transport installs two control panels, AppleTalk and TCP/IP. MacTCP is only one control panel called, obviously enough, MacTCP.
These control panels have lots of arcane numbers that must be filled out with perfect accuracy before anything will work. See your system administrator or service provider for help with this. It is critical that once things are working that you do not play with these control panels. Changing things can have disasterous consequences (blunt and heavy objects will seek you out...)
To do the actual dialing and connecting you will need either the ARA client, or a PPP client.
One of the easiest ways to dial in is with AppleTalk Remote Access (ARA). This program from Apple makes the connection very painless for the user. An advantage of ARA over PPP is that you will be able to see the AppleTAlk network on the other end and have the ability to do AppleShare and print to the printers. With PPP you will only be able to talk to the internet (this may change soon with AppleShare IP 5.0).
There are several different PPP clients that will let you dial-in to your provider. If you are using MacTCP or Open Transport, you might try using FreePPP. If you are using Open Transport (not MacTCP) you can use Apple's Open Transport/PPP client.
ZTerm is a free communication progran that will let you call into BBS's with your modem and computer. This program is not specifically intended to be used on the internet. Rather it makes your Mac into a dumb terminal. This is sometimes useful when calling into a remote (dumb) BBS (Bulletin Board System). It's also useful if you have to talk to a piece of equipment that expects a dumb terminal at the other end.
tcpCONNECT4 is a commercial all-in-one internet communication package that allows you to do email, FTP, gopher, web, and more with one program.Depending on the capabilities you need, tcpCONNECT can cost anywhere between $119 and $495.
Another communication program that is much more graphic is FirstClass. This program only speaks to FirstClass bulletin boards.