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Even with tools like Hytelnet and archie, telnet and ftp can still be frustrating. There are all those telnet and ftp addresses to remember. Telnet services often have their own unique commands. And, oh, those weird directory and file names!

But now that the Net has become a rich repository of information, people are developing ways to make it far easier to find and retrieve information and files. Gophers and Wide-Area Information Servers (WAISs) are two services that could ultimately make the Internet as easy to navigate as commercial networks such as CompuServe or Prodigy.

Both gophers and WAISs essentially take a request for information and then scan the Net for it, so you don't have to. Both also work through menus -- instead of typing in some long sequence of characters, you just move a cursor to your choice and hit enter. Gophers even let you select files and programs from ftp sites this way.

Let's first look at gophers (named for the official mascot of the University of Minnesota, where the system was developed).

Many public-access sites now have gophers online. To use one, type


at the command prompt and hit enter. If you know your site does not have a gopher, or if nothing happens when you type that, telnet to


At the log-in prompt, type


and hit enter. You'll be asked what type of terminal emulation you're using, after which you'll see something like this:

Internet Gopher Information Client v1.03

Root gopher server: gopher.micro.umn.edu

-->  1.  Information About Gopher/
     2.  Computer Information/
     3.  Discussion Groups/
     4.  Fun & Games/
     5.  Internet file server (ftp) sites/
     6.  Libraries/
     7.  News/
     8.  Other Gopher and Information Servers/
     9.  Phone Books/
     10. Search lots of places at the U of M  <?>
     11. University of Minnesota Campus Information/

Press ? for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu      Page: 1/1

Assuming you're using VT100 or some other VT emulation, you'll be able to move among the choices with your up and down arrow keys. When you have your cursor on an entry that looks interesting, just hit enter, and you'll either get a new menu of choices, a database entry form, or a text file, depending on what the menu entry is linked to (more on how to tell which you'll get in a moment).

Gophers are great for exploring the resources of the Net. Just keep making choices to see what pops up. Play with it; see where it takes you. Some choices will be documents. When you read one of these and either come to the end or hit a lower-case `q' to quit reading it, you'll be given the choice of saving a copy to your home directory or e-mailing it to yourself. Other choices are simple databases that let you enter a word to look for in a particular database. To get back to where you started on a gopher, hit your `u' key at a menu prompt, which will move you back "up" through the gopher menu structure (much like "cd .." in ftp).

Notice that one of your choices above is "Internet file server (ftp) sites." Choose this, and you'll be connected to a modified archie program -- an archie with a difference. When you search for a file through a gopher archie, you'll get a menu of sites that have the file you're looking for, just as with the old archie. Only now, instead of having to write down or remember an ftp address and directory, all you have to do is position the cursor next to one of the numbers in the menu and hit enter. You'll be connected to the ftp site, from which you can then choose the file you want. This time, move the cursor to the file you want and hit a lower-case `s'. You'll be asked for a name in your home directory to use for the file, after which the file will be copied to your home system. Unfortunately, this file-transfer process does not yet work with all public-access sites for computer programs and compressed files. If it doesn't work with yours, you'll have to get the file the old-fashioned way, via anonymous ftp.

In addition to ftp sites, there are hundreds of databases and libraries around the world accessible through gophers. There is not yet a common gopher interface for library catalogs, so be prepared to follow the online directions more closely when you use gopher to connect to one.

Gopher menu entries that end in a `/' are gateways to another menu of options. Entries that end in a period are text, graphics or program files, which you can retrieve to your home directory (or e-mail to yourself or to somebody else). A line that ends in `<?>' or `<CSO>' represents a request you can make to a database for information. The difference is that `<?>' entries call up one-line interfaces in which you can search for a keyword or words, while `<CSO>' brings up an electronic form with several fields for you to fill out (you might see this in online "White Pages" directories at colleges).

Gophers actually let you perform some relatively sophisticated Boolean searches. For example, if you want to search only for files that contain the words "MS-DOS" and "Macintosh," you'd type

ms-dos and macintosh

(gophers are not case-sensitive) in the keyword field. Alternately, if you want to get a list of files that mention either "MS-DOS" or "Macintosh," you'd type

ms-dos or macintosh

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