Newsgroups are 'big clouds in the sky'

If you think of the Internet as a big cloud of computers in the sky, one of those clouds contains a special set of computers called the USENET, more commonly known as the Newsgroups. Unfortunately not many people understand the usefulness of these computers.

The Newsgroup computers are unique on the Internet since they allow a "one to many" interchange. That is, they allow me to "post" a message to a particular Newsgroup that may be read by many many readers.

This "one to many" interchange is different than any other use of the Internet. The World Wide Web is for obtaining information ("many to one"). Email is "one to one" or at most a few other specific people. Chat is only for those who are signed on at the time. One to many means that I hope many will see my message or "post."

One way to picture this is to visualize a kiosk on a college campus. Someone "posts" a message, hopes that passersby will read it and then someone will "post" an answer. Maybe the originator is looking for a ride. Hopefully in a day or so, someone will answer, "Yes, I am going and would like company." Now picture a campus with possibly 30,000 kiosks, each limited to a specific topic. These are the Newsgroups.

Most major Internet browsers allow access to the Newsgroups, as does America On-Line. My computer uses Microsoft Internet Explorer. I access the Newsgroups by clicking on the Mail icon and then clicking on Read News.

Since these computers are special, your computer must know how they are accessed. When you originally signed up for Internet access with your Internet Service Provider, their software may have set up the Newsgroups for you. If not, the easiest is to call your provider and ask them to walk you through the setup. It is easy. On AOL access is gained by clicking on the News icon or using the keyword: Newsgroups or News.

Once there, you may see a list of 30,000 or so groups. They have special addresses like "" Clicking on this group will bring up possibly 2000 messages or "postings." They will look like a big inbox in email. Scroll through them and see if you find a question like the one you want to ask. Read the responses. Have fun.

Recently the Google search engine ( has added a category called "Groups" that allows subjects of Newsgroups to be searched. You can enter "Tahitian cruises" and see what comes up.

This is only a brief overview of the Newsgroups. Please give them a try. Of the 30,000 or so of them, I am sure you will find many of interest since almost any topic is covered. Some fun ones might be "rec.collecting.stamps" or "" For computer users there are dozens listed under "Microsoft.public......"

If you would like to hear more about Newsgroups or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning from 9 a.m. until noon. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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