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Mosaic: Your Cruise Ship to the Treasure Islands of the World Wide Web

You may have heard about, or even already explored, some of the vast stores of information available through the global computer networks -- information as varied as weather forecasts from the Purdue Weather Processor, magazine articles, scientific pre-prints and data, Internet Movie Database, course descriptions, and educational material from The Exploratorium. Often, obtaining this information can be tedious, possibly requiring the use of one of many different, often arcane, programs.

Sidebar: Helpful Web Terms

Uniform Resource Locator (URL):
An "address" for a piece of information. It specifies on which site, and where in that site, the information resides, as well as how to retrieve it -- what protocol (or language) must be spoken to communicate with the site storing the information.

The idea behind hypertext is to be able to link a label, usually a textual phrase, with some information such that when you activate the link, the program will retrieve the associated information for you.

World Wide Web

Recently, a concept known as the World Wide Web (The Project) has emerged and created a lot of excitement. The idea behind the World Wide Web is to make all the information on the Internet accessible through a single program, easing the journey for network explorers.

Using hypertext, documents can be linked to each other and to additional sources of information including graphics, sounds from The Michigan State University Celebrity Lecture Series, animations, and just about anything else you would want to make available over the networks. This linking ability provides great power and flexibility for presentation and browsing. The threads of these links call to mind a spider's web, thus "World Wide Web".

Many organizations already offer wonderful displays and services, with something available for just about any interest. For example, Wake Forest University has a good start on a "web-ized" campus-wide information service. The Mathworks, Inc., makers of Matlab, offer a support site. Many exciting educational areas have developed too, including:

These are just a few examples of the sites that have been developed, with more appearing every day.

Treasure on the Web:
A sample from the Trés Riches Heures, the classic example of a medieval book of hours. An on-line exhibit of this book is part of the Virtual Louvre (American (SunSITE) office) accessible with a Web client. Also available are a tour of Paris and a gallery of famous paintings.

An example of a "graphical map" which shows some of the wide variety of information available, and the possible web of links between them. A graphical map allows you to associate an area on a graphic with a link to other information. In this case, you would just click within the appropriate oval to be taken to that information on that subject.



Helping fuel the excitement over the World Wide Web is Mosaic, a graphical information discovery and display tool from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. With just a single program, Mosaic offers you access to the wide variety of available information.

Mosaic is currently available for Apple Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, and X-Windows (Mosaic) (UNIX and VMS platforms). You can obtain these programs via anonymous ftp to If you have a networked Macintosh, use the Chooser to access "ITG Server" in the "ACNS Staffnet" zone. You can use "Guest" access to the server. All software is located in the www folder.

MacMosaic requires a networked Macintosh (SLIP is sufficient) with at least 4MB RAM (8MB recommended) running a version of System 7. WinMosaic requires a Winsock compatible network interface.

Lynx, a text-based WWW client for UNIX, VMS and soon for DOS systems, is also available on

The collection on the ITG server also offers many tools for creating documents, viewing images and animations, and listening to sounds. If you have questions about obtaining or installing the programs, call the ACNS Information Center, 708/467-ACNS.

Once you have a client installed, you may want to browse the built-in help offerings, which in most cases are actually WWW documents that are retrieved when you access them. This makes it easier to provide up-to-date information. In addition, I have collected some references from which you might want to begin exploring or even start your own WWW publishing office.

Mosaic/WWW at Northwestern

Here at NU, many departments and individuals are running NU Web servers. In fact, in just nine months the number of these servers has exceeded the number of gopher servers that appeared in the past three years. Several departments are planning to use Mosaic as a medium to communicate with students and provide course material. A project within the Astronomy group to integrate computers with the introductory-level course "Highlights of Astronomy" will have students using Mosaic to view on-line course material and conduct interactive laboratories.

ACNS is offering a publicly accessible server for those who want to publish information but do not have the resources.

Netscape HTML Checked! June 9, 1994 - Robert Lentz (

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