Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 2, Number 2/ February 1, 1995 / Page 8

Should I Take Internet 101?

by Amelia DeLoach (

Book Review:
Internet 101: A College Student's Guide
by Alfred Glossbrenner
Windcrest:Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 1995. 350pp. $19.95

Publisher McGraw-Hill--the folks that introduce nouns, verbs, and multiplication tables to millions of elementary students--now include Internet navigation basics among their course offerings. The book, Internet 101: A College Student's Guide, published by McGraw-Hill's imprint, Windcrest(c), attempts to accomplish the task of English primers--to make unfamiliar concepts "palatable" for students' learning tastes. To tantalize these finicky readers, veteran computer "how to" writer, Alfred Glossbrenner, provides them with a textbook that resembles a freshman's culinary ideal--fast food.

Glossbrenner, in essence, provides the readers with "a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down," as he uses universal student life issues to raise questions in the reader, and Internet addresses that could reveal an answer. Thus, the writer gently persuades the reader to use the Net by portraying it as a place to discover ways to deal with roommate problems; find a summer job; study abroad; discover new musical groups; and--ahem--find both love interests and sex techniques on line. In addition to using college-related issues to maintain the interest of novice readers, the author provides the reader with only the bare essentials s/he needs to reach a newsgroup, Gopher site, or list.

If used as a teaching tool, this book can address basic points a teacher neither has the time for nor the interest in covering in class. For instance, the reader receives advice on how to pronounce e-mail addresses and select a modem. But for those teachers who need a text to introduce and reinforce essential information such as the difference between Archie, Veronica, and Jughead, the book can prove a useful teaching aid. In addition to these Net fundamentals, Glossbrenner discusses: FTP, Anonymous FTP, Gopher, processing files, email, IRC, online research, and newsgroups.

In presenting information to new computer users, Glossbrenner is consistently mindful of their apprehension. For instance, he includes his own sample searches so that the reader can compare them to his/her own screen. He anticipates that this audience will be easily overwhelmed with new information, so he keeps information to a minimum. In fact, one of the book's strongest points is the *lack* of lists that attempt to detail every single Net offering. And those lists and addresses that are included tend to relate to the undergraduate student experience or entail names only associated with pop culture such as Seinfeld, Adam Curry, Beavis & Butthead, and of course, Star Trek: subjects that will likely hold a disinterested student's attention longer than say, War and Peace.

In his attempt to reach Net wary students, Glossbrenner makes a special effort to create interest among women. However, some sensitive readers may view this attempt as sexist in nature. The chapter, "Dating & Mating: Love Online," may offend some female readers. The inclusion of the address of match making newsgroups will probably appeal to students who congregate in a dorm room to jointly compose a prank message to see what result it evokes. But the writer, in an attempt to make the section complete, includes a final section entitled "Wedding Bells & Belles." Although this section takes up a mere fraction of the book, it does imply that women, who in fact on average wait until their late 20s to marry for the first time, attend college only to earn an MRS degree. In addition, some readers may object to the inclusion of a seven-page section entitled "X-rated Internet." (Pictures, be they tame ones, are included).

While the book may raise eyebrows on some campuses, it nonetheless contains useful information on subjects such as finding Net guides, processing files, using e-mail, and searching the Library of Congress. It also provides Gopher sites and newsgroup names to students considering careers in academia. Although not for every user, Internet 101: A College Student's Guide can meet the needs of those students who must overcome their fears of or indifference to tapping into the Net. But students who crave detailed explanations should consider another textbook, because Internet 101: A College Student's Guide is a book geared to interest the disinterested. ¤

Amelia DeLoach is pursuing a MS in Technical Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Copyright © 1995 by Amelia DeLoach. All Rights Reserved.

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