Date: Tue, 1 Jul 1997 00:46:02 -0400
From: Bob Rankin 
Subject: TOURBUS TOP TEN - 01 July 1997 - Telnet Revealed

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  Welcome back!  If you just joined us, we're celebrating the 2nd
  Anniversary of Tourbus with a special ten part series.  It's
  always been our goal to entertain and inform, so today's post
  will give you the low-down on an Internet tool you'll find useful.
  Feel free to pass along these special issues to all your friends.

          TOURBUS TOP TEN #3 : Telnet Basics

Long before the Web and all of its multimedia flash was a blip on the
Internet radar, savvy netizens were using a text-based tool called
Telnet to tap into the wonders of the online world.  But today, many Net
surfers who have never even heard of Telnet are missing out on something

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What is Telnet?

Telnet is a tool that lets you log in to other computers using the
Internet.  Why would you want to do that?  Simple - to access the
interesting stuff on those other computers, such as research databases,
games, card catalogs, and information services.  And many times, the
only way to get there is by Telnet.

Since Telnet is text-based, there's no pointing or clicking.  All
your navigation is done via the keyboard, so leave the mouse at home
when you venture out with Telnet.  Even though there are no pretty
pictures, you'll find that a little time invested in learning the basics
of Telnet will be time well spent!

How to Connect

Before you can connect to another computer with Telnet, you'll need to
know a few things.  No matter type of computer or connection you have,
you must specify a hostname (and sometimes a port number) before you can
connect to the other computer.  And once you connect, you'll need to
enter a userid (and sometimes a password) in order to log in and start
using the service at that remote computer.

Once you are logged in, you'll need to pay careful attention to the
instructions on the screen to find out how to navigate the Telnet site
and logout when you're done.  When Telnetting you could end up on almost
any type of computer -- a UNIX computer at a university, a DOS-based BBS,
or an IBM mainframe, so the commands you use while logged in to the
remote site will differ from site to site.

Telnet via a Shell Account

Let's work through an example using a UNIX shell account to find out
what this Telnet stuff is all about.  (Things work pretty much the same way
if you have a SLIP/PPP account - more on that later.)  In general, when you
use Telnet from a shell prompt, you'll send a command like this:

   telnet hostname 

The word "telnet" tells your system to start a Telnet session and to go
to the address that you specify in hostname.  (You replace hostname with
the name of the site that you want to Telnet to.)

Unless you are told to use a specific port number (such as 3000), you
should omit the portnumber value.  The brackets around portnumber mean
that this field is optional.

Vanilla Telnet

OK, time to try some Telnet-ing.  Let's Telnet to the computer called
SJSULIB1.SJSU.EDU (The San Jose State University Library and
Instructional Resource Center, gateway to the Beethoven Bibliography
Database) and see what happens.  To connect to this site, type


You will be able to login to this site without being prompted for a userid
or password.  (The Beethoven database can be accessed by entering "O" at
the prompt after you connect.)

Telnet With a Port Number

Here's another Telnet example, this time with a specific port number.
For this one, type


a weather forecasting service.  Again, there's no need for a
userid or password here.  Explore at your leisure...

Telnet With a Userid

Finally, here's a Telnet example that does require a userid for entry. To
connect to the InterNIC Directory and Database Services site, type


While this site requires a userid, we're told in the welcome screen to
login as "guest". Don't count on being told how to login though. Sometimes
you have to know the userid ahead of time!  Unless you are connecting to
a fee-based service to which you have previously subscribed (like CompuServe
or a BBS) you probably won't ever need a password when using Telnet.

On the road?  Many ISP's allow you to Telnet in and check your mail.  For
example, if you have an account on The Well, you can pop in from any
computer in the world that's wired to the Net by typing


Telnet Clients for SLIP/PPP

If you're Telnetting from a SLIP/PPP account (using Windows or Macintosh
graphical software) look for an icon on your screen labelled "Telnet"
(or possibly "Terminal") to start a Telnet session.  If you have Windows
95, type "telnet" from the Run prompt to start Telnet.

If you're not a Win95 user and you don't have the software already
installed, here are some Telnet programs that you can download through
your Web browser:

   NetTerm for Windows (my personal favorite)

   NCSA Telnet for Macintosh

Note: If you're a subscriber to Prodigy or America Online, Telnet may
be out of your reach.  Check in the Internet area to see if Telnet is
available.  If you have only e-mail access to the Net, then you're
out of luck when it comes to Telnet - sorry!

A Word About Terminal Emulation

The phrase "terminal emulation" may sound like a fatal disease, but
it's important to understand.  Because there are many different types of
computers out there, your Telnet software has to act just like (or emulate)
the real terminals that are connected to the host computer you wish to access.

Each Telnet program (or client) allows you to specify the type of terminal
to use before you connect.  It's usually safe to try VT100 emulation, but
if the screen looks jumbled or keys will not function properly, try ANSI
(common for BBS's) or TN3270 (for IBM mainframe systems).

How To Find Interesting Telnet Sites

Hopefully the examples in this posting have given you an idea of the
type of services available by Telnet.  But that's just the tip of the
iceberg - you can visit BBS's all over the world, access free databases,
search through library card catalogs, play interactive multi-player
games and do lots of other interesting things via Telnet.  Check out

with your Web browser and you'll find a listing with dozens of Telnet
sites to explore.  They're all arranged by category with nice descriptions,
and best of all they're just a click away.

See you next time!   --Bob

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