It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time. - Sir Winston Churchill

Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski

                     2nd Edition - August 1994

                Copyright (c) 1994,  "Doctor Bob" Rankin

   All rights reserved.  Permission is granted to make and distribute
   verbatim copies of this document provided the copyright notice and
           this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

How to Access Internet Services by E-mail

If your only access to the Internet is via e-mail, you don't have to
miss out on all the fun!  Maybe you've heard of FTP, Gopher, Archie,
Veronica, Finger, Whois, WAIS, World-Wide Web, and Usenet but thought
they were out of your reach because your online service does not provide
those tools.  Not so!  And even if you do have full Internet access,
using e-mail servers can save you time and money.

This special report will show you how to retrieve files from FTP sites,
explore the Internet via Gopher, search for information with Archie,
Veronica, or WAIS, tap into the World-Wide Web, and even access Usenet
newsgroups using E-MAIL AS YOUR ONLY TOOL.

If you can send a note to an Internet address, you're in the game!  This
is great news for users of online services where there is partial or no
direct Internet access.

I encourage you to read this entire document first and then go back and
try out the techniques that are covered.  This way, you will gain a
broader perspective of the information resources that are available, an
introduction to the tools you can work with, and the best methods for
finding the information you want.

Finding the Latest Version

This document is now available from an automated mail server.
To get the latest edition, send e-mail to either address below.

To: (for US/Canada/etc.)
Leave Subject blank, and enter only this line in the body of the note:

Or: (for UK/Europe/etc.)
Leave Subject blank, and enter only this line in the body of the note:
  send lis-iis e-access-inet.txt

You can also get the file by anonymous FTP at either of these sites:
At:                 Or:
  cd NETTRAIN                              cd pub/lists/lis-iis/files/
  get INTERNET BY-EMAIL                    get e-access-inet.txt

A Short Aside... "What is the Internet?"

Many introductory texts on the Internet go into excruciating detail on
the history, composition and protocol of the Internet.  If you were
looking for that you won't find it here, because this is a "how to"
lesson, not a history book.

When you buy a new car, they don't make you read "The Life and Times of
Henry Ford" before you can turn the top down and squeal off the lot.
And when you get a new computer, nobody forces you to read a text on
logic design before you fire up Leisure Suit Larry or WordPerfect.

So if you're the type that wants to short-circuit the preliminaries and
just dig in, you've come to the right place.  I'm not going to bore you
with the gory details.  Instead, I'll just offer up my Reader's Digest
condensed definition of the Internet, and encourage you to read more
about the Internet in one of the many fine Internet books & guides
listed in the "Suggested Reading" section.  Some of them are even free,
and accessible directly from the Internet!

Internet (noun) - A sprawling collection of computer networks that spans
the globe, connecting government, military, educational & commercial
institutions, as well as private citizens to a wide range of computer
services, resources, and information.  A set of network conventions and
common tools are employed to give the appearance of a single large
network, even though the computers that are linked together use many
different hardware and software platforms.

The Rules of The Game

This document is meant to be both tutorial and practical, so there are
lots of actual commands and internet addresses listed herein.  You'll
notice that when these are included in the text they are indented by
several spaces for clarity.  Don't include the leading spaces when you
try these commands on your own!

You'll also see things like "" or "" appearing in this
document.  Think of these as place holders or variables which must
be replaced with an appropriate value.  Do NOT include the quotes or
brackets in your value unless specifically directed to do so.

Often you'll be told to "send e-mail with a blank subject" to some
address.  This means to simply leave the "Subject:" field blank in
your note.  If your mailer refuses to send messages with a blank
subject, give it some dummy value.  In most cases this will work fine.

Most e-mail servers understand only a small set of commands and are
not very forgiving if you deviate from what they expect.  So include
ONLY the specified commands in the "body" of your note and leave off
any extraneous lines such as your signature, etc.

Pay attention to upper/lower case in directory and file names when
using e-mail servers.  It's almost always important!

FTP By E-Mail

FTP stands for "file transfer protocol", and is a means of accessing
files that are stored on remote computer systems.  Files are stored in a
hierarchical "tree" of directories, each of which pertains to a
different subject.  Using FTP by e-mail can be nice even for those with
full Internet access, because some FTP servers are heavily loaded and
interactive response can be very sluggish.  So it makes sense not to
waste time and connect charges in these cases.

To access FTP by e-mail, you first need a list of FTP "sites" which are
the addresses of the remote computer systems that allow you to retrieve
files anonymously (without having a userid and password on that system).
To get this list, send an e-mail note to:

without a subject and include these lines in the body of the note.

   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part1
   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part2
   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part3
   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part4
   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part5
   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part6
   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part7
   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/sitelist/part8

You will then receive (by e-mail) 8 files which comprise the "FTP Site
List".  Print them out or store them in a place where you can reference
the list handily.  Another file you might want to retrieve is "FTP
Frequently Asked Questions", so add this line to your note as well.
This file contains lots more info on using FTP services.

   send usenet/news.answers/ftp-list/faq

If you find an interesting FTP site in the list, send e-mail to one of
these addresses:                    (USA/NJ)                      (USA/NC)                       (USA/MA)                         (UK)                             (Europe)                        (Australia)

And in the body of the note, include these lines:


This will return to you a list of the files stored in the root directory
at that site.  In your next mail message you can navigate to other
directories by inserting (for example)

   cd pub

before the dir command.  ("pub" is a common directory name, and usually
a good place to start.) Once you determine the name of a file you want
to retrieve, use:


in your note instead of the dir command.  If the file you want to
retrieve is plain text, this will suffice.  If it's a binary file (a
program, zipfile, etc.) you'll need to insert the command:


in your note before the "get" command.

So to summarize, here's the message you would send to one of the ftpmail
servers in order to retrieve the text of The Declaration of Independence
from a remote FTP site:

   cd pub/CAF/civics
   get dec_of_ind

Some other interesting FTP sites you may want to "visit" are listed below:    try: pub/Library for documents, bible, lyrics, etc.        try: pub/usenet/news.answers for USENET FAQs, Archives     try: pub/msdos for a huge DOS software library        try: pub/nic for Internet how-to documents  try: pub/humor for lots of humor files

You should note that FTP mail servers tend to be quite busy so your
reply may not arrive for several minutes, hours, or days, depending on
when and where you send your request.  Also, some large files may be
split into smaller pieces and returned to you as multiple messages.

If the file that is returned to you ends up looking something like what
you see below, (the word "begin" with a number and the filename on one
line, followed by a bunch of 61-character lines) it most likely is a
binary file that has been "uuencoded" by the sender.  (This is required
in order to reliably transmit binary files.)

You'll need to scrounge up a version of the uudecode program for your
operating system (UNIX, DOS, OS/2, VM, etc.) in order to unscramble the
file.  Most likely you'll find a copy already at your site or in your
service provider's download library, or you can use the instructions in
the next section to find out how to search FTP sites for a specific file.

    begin 666

Another point to consider...  If your online service charges you to
store e-mail files that are sent to you and you plan to receive some
large files via FTP, it would be wise to handle your "inbasket"
expeditiously to avoid storage costs!

Archie By E-Mail

Let's say you know the name of a file, but you have no idea at which
what FTP site it might be lurking.  Or maybe you're curious to know if a
file matching a certain naming criteria is available via FTP.  Archie is
the tool you can use to find out!

Archie servers can be thought of as a database of all the anonymous FTP
sites in the world, allowing you to find the site and/or name of a file
to be retrieved.  And using Archie by e-mail can be convenient because
some Archie searches take a LONG time to complete, leaving you to tap
your toes in the meantime.

To use Archie by e-mail, simply send an e-mail message to one of the
following addresses:                    (USA/NJ)                       (USA/MD)                        (USA/NE)                   (UK)                        (Sweden)             (Japan)

To obtain detailed help for using Archie by mail, put the word


in the subject of the note and just send it off.  You'll receive e-mail
explaining how to use archie services.

If you're the "just do it" type, then leave the subject blank and enter:


where "" is the name of the file to search for, in the body (not
the subject) of the note.

This will search for files that match your criteria exactly.  If you
want to find files that contain your search criteria anywhere in their
name, insert the line

   set search sub

before the "find" command.  Some other useful archie commands you might
want to use are:

   set maxhits 20             limit amount of output , default 100 files
   set match_domain usa       (restrict output to FTP sites in USA)
   set output_format terse    (return output in condensed  form)

When you get the results from your Archie query, it will contain the
names of various sites at which the desired file is located.  Use one of
these site names and the exact filename listed for your next FTP file
retrieval request.

Now you've learned enough to locate that uudecode utility mentioned
in the last section.  Use the "file uudecode" command (after the
"set search sub") and optionally include "maxhits" and "match_domain"
commands in your archie query.

Note: You'll be looking for the uudecode source code, not the executable
version, which would of course be a binary file and would arrive
uuencoded - a Catch 22!  Try for "uudecode.c" (if you have a C compiler)
or "uudecode.bas" (if you have BASIC available).

Gopher By E-Mail

Gopher is an excellent tool for exploring the Internet and is the best
way to find a resource if you know what you want, but not where to find
it.  A gopher system is menu-based, and provides a user-friendly
"front-end" to Internet resources, searches and information retrieval.
Without a tool like Gopher, you'd have to wander aimlessly through the
Internet jungles and swamps to find the treasures you seek.  Gopher
"knows where things are" and guides you to the good stuff.

Gopher takes the rough edges off of the Internet by automating remote
logins, hiding the sometimes-cryptic command sequences, and offers
powerful search capabilities as well.  And of course you can use
Gopher by e-mail!

Although not every item on every menu will be accessible by "gopher
mail", you'll still find plenty of interesting things using this
technique.  Down to brass tacks...  let's send e-mail to one of these
addresses:                        (USA)                  (USA)                       (Sweden)                       (Japan)

Leave the Subject blank, enter HELP in the body of the note, and let it
rip.  You'll soon receive by e-mail the text of the main menu at the
gophermail site you selected.  (You can optionally specify the address
of a known gopher site on the Subject line to get the main menu for that
site instead.)

To proceed to a selection on the returned menu just e-mail the whole
text of the note (from the menu downwards) back to the gopher server,
placing an "x" next to the items(s) you want to explore.  You'll then
receive the next level of the gopher menu by e-mail.  Some menu choices
lead to other menus, some lead to text files, and some lead to searches.

To perform a search, select that menu item with an "x" and supply your
search words in the Subject: of your next reply.  Note that your search
criteria can be a single word or a boolean expression such as:

   document and (historical or government)

Each of the results (the "hits") of your search will be displayed as
an entry on yet another gopher menu!

Note: You needn't actually return the entire gopher menu and all the
routing info that follows it each time you reply to the gophermail
server.  If you want to minimize the size of your query, you can strip
out the "menu" portion at the top and include only the portion below
that pertains to the menu selection you want.  The example that follows
shows how to select one specific item from a gopher menu:

   ------- begin gophermail message (do not include this line)
   Split=0 bytes/message <- For text, bin, HQX messages (0 = No split)
   Menu=0 items/message <- For menus and query responses (0 = No split)
   Name=EE Telecommunication Overview
   ------- end gophermail message (do not include this line)

If this message looks like nonsense to you, here's a human translation:

   Connect to PORT 70 of the HOST (computer) at "",
   retrieve the FILE "" (whose NAME is "EE Telecommunication
   Overview") and send it to me in ONE PIECE, regardless of it's size.

Veronica By E-Mail

Speaking of searches, this is a good time to mention Veronica.  Just
like Archie provides a searchable index of FTP sites, Veronica provides
this function for "gopherspace".  Veronica will ask you what you want to
look for (your search words) and then display another menu listing all
the gopher menu items that match your search.  In typical gopher
fashion, you can then select one of these items and "go-pher it"!

To try Veronica by e-mail, retrieve the main menu from
using the method just described.  Then try the choice labelled "Other
Gopher and Information Servers".  This menu will have an entry for

You'll have to select one (or more) Veronica servers to handle your
query, specifying the search words in the Subject of your reply.  Here's
another example of where using e-mail servers can save time and money.
Often the Veronica servers are very busy and tell you to "try again
later".  So select 2 or 3 servers, and chances are one of them will be
able to handle your request the first time around.

A Gophermail Tip:

The path to some resources, files or databases can be a bit tedious,
requiring several e-mail messages to the gophermail server.  But here's
the good news...  If you've done it once, you can re-use any of the
e-mail messages previously sent in, changing it to suit your current
needs.  (This applies to all gophermail services.) You'll see an
example of this in the next section.

Usenet By E-Mail

Usenet is a collection of over 5000 discussion groups on every topic
imaginable.  In order to get a proper start and avoid embarrasing
yourself needlessly, you must read the Usenet new users intro document,
which can be obtained by sending an e-mail note to:

without a subject and including this line in the body of the note:

   send usenet/news.answers/news-newusers-intro

Once you've handled the preliminaries, you'll need to know how to read
and contribute to Usenet newsgroups by e-mail.  To read a newsgroup, you
will use the gophermail service discussed earlier in this guide.

To obtain a list of recent postings to a particular newsgroup, send the
following lines to one of the gophermail servers mentioned previously.
Leave "Subject" blank and include only these lines in the message body.

(You must replace "" below with the name of the Usenet
newsgroup you wish to access.  eg: alt.answers,,
news.newusers.questions, etc.)

   ------- begin gophermail message (do not include this line)
   Split=32K bytes/message <- For text, bin, HQX messages (0 = No split)
   Menu=100 items/message <- For menus and query responses (0 = No split)
   Path=news group
   ------- begin gophermail message (do not include this line)

The gophermail server will mail you a typical gopher menu on which you
may select the individual postings you wish to read.

Note: The gophermail query in this example is the greatly edited result of
many previous queries.  I've pared it down to the bare essentials so
it can be tailored and reused.  If you're curious as to what these
commands actually do, here's a human translation:

   Connect to PORT 4320 of the HOST (computer) at "",
   send me up to 100 ITEMS from the SUBMENU "news group ",
   SPLITting the resulting message into 32K byte chunks before sending.

If you decide to make a post of your own,  mail the text of your post to:         (USA)              (UK)

For example, to post to news.newusers.questions, you would send your
message to one of:

Be sure to include an appropriate Subject: line, and to include your real
name and e-mail address at the close of your note.

WAIS Searches By E-Mail

WAIS stands for Wide Area Information Service, and is a means of
searching a set of over 500 indexed databases.  The range of topics is
too broad to mention, and besides, you'll soon learn how to get the
topic list for yourself!

I recommend that you send e-mail to "" with HELP
in the body of the note to get the full WAISmail user guide.  But if you
can't wait, use the info below as a quickstart.

A list of WAIS databases (or "resources" as they like to be called) can be
obtained by sending e-mail to "" with the line

   search xxx xxx

in the body of the note.  Look through the returned list for topics that
are of interest to you and use one of them in the next example.

OK, let's do an actual search.  Send e-mail to:

with the following commands in the note body:

   maxres 10
   search bible flood

This will tell WAISmail to search through the text of the "bible"
database and return a list of at most 10 documents containing "flood".

You will receive an e-mail response something like this:

   From: WAISmail@Think.COM
   Searching: bible
   Keywords: flood

   Result # 1 Score:1000 lines:  0 bytes:   3556 Date:910101 Type: TEXT
   Headline: Genesis: Chapter 9  9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons...
   DocID: 0000000457KJV

To retrieve the full text of a matching document, just use one the
returned "DOCid:" lines exactly as is.  So your next e-mail to WAISmail
would be:

   DocID: 0000000457KJV

This will cause the referenced "document" to be sent to you by e-mail.

World-Wide Web By E-Mail

The World-Wide Web is touted as the future of Internet navigational
tools.  It's a hypertext and multimedia system that lets you hop around
the Net, read documents, and access images & sounds linked to a source.

Have you ever heard someone say, "Wow, check out the cool stuff at
URL and wondered what the heck they
were talking about?  Now you can retrieve WWW documents using e-mail!

All you need to know is the URL (that long ugly string starting with
"http:", "gopher:", or "ftp:") which defines the address of the
document, and you can retrieve it by sending e-mail to:

In the body of your note include one of these lines, replacing ""
with the actual URL specification.


This will send you back the document you requested, with all a list of
its documents referenced within, so that you may make further requests.


Same as above, but it will also send you the documents referenced in
in the URL you specified.

To check out WWW by e-mail, send this command to


You should receive the "WWW Welcome Page" from Cern, in which
you'll be able to find lots of other interesting URL's to explore!

Note: The URL you specify may contain only the following characters:
a-z, A-Z, 0-9, and these special characters /:._-+@%*()?

I've heard that there is another WWW-mail server whose address is
"".  This server requires commands in the form:


Mailing Lists

There are literally thousands of discussion groups that stay in touch
using e-mail based systems known as "mailing lists".  People interested
in a topic "subscribe" to a "list" and then send & receive postings by
e-mail.  For a good introduction to this topic, send e-mail to:

In the body of your note include only this command:


To find out about mailing lists that are relevant to your interests,
send the following command to the same address given above.

   LIST GLOBAL /keyword

(Of course you must replace "keyword" with an appropriate search word
such as Marketing, Education, etc.)

Another helpful document which details the commands used to subscribe,
unsubscribe and search mailing list archives can be had by sending to:

In the body of your note include only this command:

   get mailser cmd nettrain f=mail

Finger By E-mail

"Finger" is a utility that returns information about another user.
Usually it's just boring stuff like last logon, etc., but sometimes
people put fun or useful information in their finger replies.  To try
out finger, send e-mail with

   Subject: #finger

You'll receive current major league baseball standings!  (The general
form is #finger user@site.)

"Directory Assistance" by E-Mail

"Whois" is a service that queries a database of Internet names and
addresses.  If you're looking for someone or you want to know where
a particular computer is located, send e-mail with

   Subject: whois 

Try substituting "" or the last name of someone you know in place
of "" and see what comes back!

Another alternative name looker-upper is a database at MIT which keeps
tabs on everyone who has posted a message on Usenet.  Send e-mail with
a blank subject to "" and include this command
ONLY in the note body:

   send usenet-addresses/

Specify as much information as you can about the person (lastname,
firstname, userid, site, etc.) to limit the amount of information that
is returned to you.  Here's a sample query to find the address of
someone you think may be at Harvard University:

   send usenet-addresses/Jane Doe Harvard

A Few Net-Goodies

Here are some other interesting things you can do by e-mail.  Some of
them are accessible only by e-mail!

Don't have your dictionary handy?  Send e-mail to
again, but this time make the subject #webster test and you'll get a
definition of the word "test" in reply.

Jason Fesler offers a bunch of other services by e-mail!  Almanac
(daily updates), Weather, CD Music Catalog, etc. Send e-mail to with subject #HELP.  While you're at it, why
not send a note with a subject of "Thanks!".

Find out if your congressman has an electronic address!  Just send mail
to the address and you'll get a listing of
congressional e-mail addresses.

You can also contact the President ( or Vise
President (, but don't expect a reply by
email.  Messages sent to these addresses get printed out and handled
just like regular paper correspondence!

A new service at Stanford University makes it possible to search USENET
newsgroups for postings that contain keywords of interest to you.  You
can even "subscribe" and receive a daily list of newsgroup postings that
match your search criteria.  Send mail to with
blank subject and HELP in the body of note for full details.

To learn how to get tons of info on movies, actors, directors, etc.
Send mail to with blank subject and HELP in the body
of note for full details.

Send e-mail with subject STOCK MARKET QUOTES to
and you'll receive a rather lengthy stock market report (every day until
you ask Martin to stop sending them)!  Please note that this is not an
automated server, so be sure to include a word of appreciation for this
useful service.

If you want to get a current quote for just 1 or 2 stocks, you can use
the QuoteCom service.  They offer this free service along with other fee
based services.  For details, send e-mail to "" with a
subject of HELP.

The "anon server" provides a front for sending mail messages and posting
to Usenet newsgroups anonymously, should the need ever arise.  To get
complete instructions, send e-mail to:                               (English version)  or   (German version) or  (Italian version)

Suggested Reading

There are lots of good books and guides to help you get started on the
Internet, and here are some that I recommend.  The first few are free
(FTPmail commands listed below), and the others can be found in most
bookstores that carry computer-related books.

"Zen and the Art of the Internet", by Brendan Kehoe
   cd obi/Internet/zen-1.0
   get zen10.txt

"There's Gold in them thar Networks", by Jerry Martin
   cd rfc
   get rfc1402.txt

"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet", by Ed Krol
   cd rfc
   get rfc1118.txt

"The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog", by Ed Krol
   Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates
   ISBN: 1-56592-063-5
   Price: $24.95

"The Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet", by Adam Gaffin
   Publisher: MIT Press
   ISBN: 0-262-57105-6
   Price: $14.95

"The Internet for Dummies", by John Levine & Carol Baroudi
   Publisher: IDG Books
   ISBN: 1-56884-024-1
   Price: $19.95

Contacting the Author

"Doctor Bob", also known as Bob Rankin, welcomes your feedback on this
guide and can be reached at the following addresses.  Send corrections,
ideas, suggestions and comments by e-mail.  I'll try to include any new
e-mail services in future editions of this guide.

US Mail:       Doctor Bob / PO Box 39 / Tillson, NY / 12486

Something Else From Doctor Bob!

                          Announcing ...

                Doctor Bob's Internet Tour Guide

There's a goldmine of information, software and services out there just
waiting to be discovered!  It can be yours, but it's not easy...  That's
why you must have this informative report which gives you the lowdown on

* Online databases          * Electronic Library Catalogs
* Shopping in Cyberspace    * Job Postings
* Vast software libraries   * ALL FREE!

You'll learn the basics of TELNETing, FTPing and GOPHERing to the
information you want, with specific instructions and the "secret keys"
you need to unlock all the doors on the way!

This is the guide I wanted when the Internet was new to me.  Just a
quick overview of the "tools of the trade" and a list of "cool things to
do".  Not 300 pages...  And not $39!  This information could save you
money, hours of valuable time, or lead you to a new career.

And best of all, THIS 12-PAGE REPORT COSTS ONLY $5.00 !!!

         To get your copy of:

    Doctor Bob's Internet Tour Guide

send just $5 (US cash, check or money order) plus a
self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

 -->  PO BOX 39, DEPT E2
 -->  TILLSON, NY 12486  USA

Outside the USA:  Skip the stamp, but please add $1 for
postage & handling, thanks.


                Copyright (c) 1994,  "Doctor Bob" Rankin

   All rights reserved.  Permission is granted to make and distribute
   verbatim copies of this document provided the copyright notice and
           this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]

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Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
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