When two computers are connected together, they form a network. As larger networks joined together, they formed what is called the Internet. The Internet can be a lot of fun (almost addictive!), and a source of information both serious and playful. To access the Internet, you must get a computer account with one of the many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Hong Kong.
There are a number of different ways to access the Internet. You can have an interactive session using a program called TELNET; files can be transferred using FTP; GOPHER lets you explore hierarchically organized files. The World-Wide Web can do all of this, and also adds images and hypertext links - where you click on some text or a graphic and the computer connects you to something else.
The easiest way to access the Internet is through a 'browser', which is usually a World-Wide Web client program running under Microsoft Windows, or the Macintosh OS. To do this, you must be running a SLIP or PPP connection to your ISP and have Winsock or MacTCP or something similar loaded (don't you just love all those letters?). Any ISP which does not allow you to have a SLIP or PPP connection at no extra cost, or which does not provide technical help in setting up this connection, is not worth your money - find a different one.
Your ISP may provide the Web browser, or one may come with your connection software, like Internet In A Box. Otherwise you can download a browser from the Internet using FTP. The two most popular browsers are NCSA Mosaic and Netscape, which can both be found at ftp://sunsite.ust.hk/pub/WWW/
Two important notes. The Internet is case-sensitive - it cares about capital letters. The directories pub/www/ and pub/WWW/ are not the same thing. So always write down addresses, directories, and file names exactly.
Second, the mess of an address above is called a URL (uniform Resource Locator). The first part indicates whether the site is for ftp, gopher, telnet, or http - this last is the protocol used by the Web. Web addresses look like http://sqzm14.ust.hk/hkgay.html which says make a web connection to computer sqzm14.ust.hk and read the file named hkgay.html
To go to a site, you choose the 'open location' or 'open URL' option in your Web browser, type in the URL, and press the return or enter key. Then sit back and watch.
There are a lot of Web sites which are set up for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual users. You can find information on everything from the age of consent in different countries to effectiveness ratings for different brands of condoms! And there are other sites which focus on artwork and photographic exhibitions. There is even a gay-oriented Internet shopping mall!.
Some search tools are available to help you find things on the Internet. Most of them require you to be using a Web browser which supports forms - computer pages with areas where you type the words you want to search for.
WebCrawler, located at http://www.webcrawler.com/, is a "spider" program. It roams the Net systematically indexing Web pages. Infoseek, at http://www.infoseek.com/, uses a similar automatic webcrawler, and also solicits inclusions from the people who run Web servers. They are easily the most popular search tool on the Web.
Both work by looking in their indexes for sites which contain the words you type in. They don't care about word order, so the search phrase "hong kong gay" will retrieve the same items as "gay hong kong". They will also try to sort the list so that those sites where the words occur most frequently will be displayed first.
Another place to do searches is run by the Computer Science department of the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology at http://www.cs.ust.hk/IndexServer/ This index only includes Web sites in Hong Kong, so it can be a very effective place to search for local information, although there is not much there yet which is gay-related.
Another way to find Internet resources is by looking at subject-oriented directories. Easily the biggest and best known is Yahoo!, which is an American word indicating excitement and discovery. Available at http://www.yahoo.com/, Yahoo! lists sites and categorizes them into appropriate subject categories.
Under Society and Culture you will find listings for Gender Issues, Gender-Transgendered resources, and a very large selection of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Resources, many of which are further broken down into subcategories. A tremendous amount of information is also available on AIDS/HIV, including safer sex.
Spend some time exploring the sites collected here. With just a click of the mouse you can go off to Condom Country, the ( http://phymat.bham.ac.uk/Lycra/ - now restricted access - 23mar97 ) Gay Lovers of Lycra, or the Lesbian and Gay South Asians organization ( http://www.rahul.net/trikone/ - now restricted access - feb2000 ) trikone.
The most comprehensive list of other specifically Queer resources on the
Internet is Infoqueer, at http://www.infoqueer.org/queer/qis/ (server gone -feb2000).
Note: This server seems to be down - I am trying to find out whether it has a new address. -Spode (29 June 1996)
The single largest collection of gay, lesbian, and bisexual information anywhere on the Internet is the Queer Resources Directory at http://www.qrd.org/ They even have several articles on gay issues in China, and a note about the Horizons organization in Hong Kong!
Queer Asian/Pacific resources are collected at http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/Heights/5010/resources.html
Browsing the Internet is fun, but the world is not a perfect place, and you will have problems now and then. Sometimes a server will not be available, or they will be too busy to accept your connection, or your computer will be acting funny, or the moon will be full and you computer mouse will look very hungry. Try not to let it bother you. If you find yourself too frustrated when everything used to work, walk away from the computer and relax. Consider reading a book, or going dancing with a friend. That's much better than pounding your head against the computer monitor, as I sometimes find myself doing.
I leave you with a few other Web servers that you might want to visit:
Amsterdam Pink Pages - [gone -feb2000]
Gay Lesbian Net Inc. - http://www.glnetwork.no/home/bjornfk/ [expired - Aug 1996 -Ed]
The Gay Source -http://www.gaysource.com/ [missing in action
Hong Kong Gay Resources - http://sqzm14.ust.hk/hkgay.html
The Paradox home page (wonderful!) -
This page is currently missing - if you find the new link, please let me know.
QX Magazine - http://www.qxmag.co.uk/
The Safer Sex Page - http://www.safersex.org/