COMPUTERS AND CHRISTIANITY
by Tom Dolan
In this information age technology will play an important role driving the ongoing development and communication within the Churches of Christ. The College of Biblical and Family Studies (CBFS) at Abilene Christian University (ACU) is taking advantage of technology by hosting an Information Service on a computer in the College. The computer has extensive information about the College, Biblical Studies, Family Studies and Missions. This information is accessible by any member of the Churches of Christ connected to the internet portion of the information highway. The computer also has extensive communication resources allowing reliable and timely personal and public computer communication with persons around the world. The CBFS welcomes members of the Churches of Christ to utilize this resource. Contact Tom Dolan of the CBFS for more information.
One Monday morning John frantically started seeking information concerning a topic assigned by his elders for a new sermon series. It was a subject John had not studied in depth at school. John started looking in his personal library and found he didn't have many resources on the subject. With concern he went to his local library. His fears were confirmed as he found no information there. In despair John tried calling a friend who is an ACU Bible professor with knowledge in the subject. The phone rang over and over again with no answer.
John was really sweating now. Then from the back of his mind he remember his professor friend was familiar with computer communication. John turned on his computer and composed a message to the professor asking for help with the topic. John's computer then made a local phone call, connected to a host computer on the "information highway" and sent the message to the host computer in the College of Biblical and Family Studies (CBFS) at Abilene Christian University (ACU).
A little while later the professor retrieved the electronic mail (email) message and pulled it up on his computer screen. The professor chuckled at the frantic tone of the message and immediately sent a reply to John with some personal anecdotes and Biblical insights on the subject.
Later that day, after trying to calm down and eating lunch, John retrieved and read the electronic message from the Professor. He was greatly relieved to find good, direct information on the subject. John sent a message of thanks back expressing mock hurt at the professor making fun of his situation.
The professor also mentioned a group of persons using email to discuss similar topics that may give John further insight on the subject. The professor explained there is a host computer that receives messages from discussion group members and automatically sends a copy of each message to every member of the group. John used email to subscribe to the discussion group, asking for help concerning his topic.
John was overwhelmed the next day when he received messages from several preachers responding with more anecdotes, biblical insight and information. One preacher in particular mentioned a bibliography file available for John to retrieve from the CBFS computer.
John used his computer to connect to the CBFS computer. John looked through the computer listing of files available and retrieved the bibliography file and a paper a graduate student had written on the subject. While looking at the paper John noticed the student referenced information obtained from computer menus and indexes on the CBFS computer.
John used some special systems to browse through CBFS computer menus. John found several menu items referencing his topic. One item led him to the Restoration Serials Index (RSI) database. John connected to the RSI database on the CBFS computer and using the topical search found several periodical articles on his topic.
John then connected to the Brown Library computer at ACU. He found one of the journals available by inter-library loan. John jotted the call number and phone number down, went to his local library and after a few days received the journal.
Many members of John's congregation told him how much they were enriched by his sermon series. John's elders gave him a verbal commendation for the series during a Sunday morning service.
ABOUT THE CBFS INFORMATION SERVICE
The CBFS Information Service is committed to providing to members of the Churches of Christ the electronic information functions John used (see Network Functions sidebar). Any member of the Churches of Christ having access to the internet portion of the information highway can use the CBFS Information Service.
We recommend new computer and information highway members start by learning how to do email. Then the member can advance learning how to subscribe to discussion groups with email. Members should expect spending two or three months in the learning curve for these two items. Email and discussion groups by email are what most persons, including advanced members, spend most of their information highway time doing. After that the new member can learn how to retrieve files, use database services and use remote menus.
THE CBFS INFORMATION HIGHWAY ADDRESS
The CBFS computer has an internet name it is known by: Bible.acu.edu One reads this address from right to left. The edu stands for education, acu stands for Abilene Christian University and Bible stands for the Bible computer. (There are several ACU computers offering information services on the internet.)
The Bible.acu.edu computer is a multi-user, twenty-four-hours-a-day host. This means the computer is always available to receive email and serve up information. The computer is multi-user in nature. This means many persons can utilize services on the computer simultaneously. The phrase "internet host" usually signifies a multi-user, twenty-four-hour-a-day machine. The phrase "internet client" usually signifies a personal computer used to access host information. The client computer is usually on only when the member needs information.
ABOUT CBFS INFORMATION
PERSONAL MESSAGING - CBFS Email
All CBFS faculty and staff have internet addresses. They all use Bible.acu.edu as a post office for their email messages. CBFS email addresses are written in the following manner: "lastname@Bible.acu.edu" (leave off the quotes.) So a valid address is Dolan@Bible.acu.edu If you need help with an address send a message to Postmaster@Bible.acu.edu See the instructions or help portion of your access provider to find out how to send email to an internet address.
PUBLIC MESSAGING - CBFS Listserv lists
CBFS Information Service hosts several internet discussion groups called listserv lists. The listserv software on the CBFS internet host automatically handles subscriptions and messages for each list. These discussions are conducted via email. Some lists allow anonymous subscriptions (anyone on the internet), other lists have restricted subscriptions.
Lists hosted by CBFS include:
Discussion of the History of the Stone-Campbell restoration movement.
Discussion among ACU missions teams going
Discussion among attendees of the annual International Conference on Computing and Missions.
Discussion among the technical team building and managing the CBFS Information Service.
To subscribe to a list hosted by CBFS send a message to Listserv@Bible.acu.edu On the first line of the text of the message put: Subscribe listname yourfirstname yourlastname where listname is the name of the list described above, yourfirstname is your first name and yourlastname is your last name. For example for Tom Dolan to subscribe to Stone-Campbell he would send a message to Listserv@Bible.acu.edu with the first line of: Subscribe Stone-Campbell Tom Dolan
REMOTE HOST ACCESS - CBFS remote host services
Remote host are accessed by using a computer program and protocol called telnet. Telnet is a program allowing members to "log in" to any host on the internet. This means the member will use programs, databases and computing power on the remote host as opposed to using programs, databases and the computing power of the client personal computer. Many hosts on the internet have anonymous programs and databases available to any internet member.
The two anonymous remote host services provided by CBFS Information Services are the Restoration Serial Index (RSI) and the GUEST account. In addition all ACU Brown Library holdings are available from the Abilene Library Consortium computer called Alcon.acu.edu
RSI is available by using telnet to connect to Bible.acu.edu At the Username: prompt respond with RSI No password required. The RSI data is maintained by Erma Jean Loveland of the Abilene Library Consortium (Ermal@Alcon.acu.edu). She updates the information once a year. The database program is maintained by Debbie Watts of ACU Administrative computing (Watts@acuvax.acu.edu).
The GUEST account is available by using telnet to connect to Bible.acu.edu The GUEST account is provided for persons having only telnet access on the internet. Enter GUEST at the Username: prompt (no password required.) A menu will come on the screen allowing access to things on the internet not available with only telnet or email.
The Abilene Library Consortium is available to any internet member who telnets to Alcon.acu.edu Enter ACUPAC at the Username: prompt, no password necessary. Follow the menus to search the library card catalog database.
REMOTE FILE ACCESS - CBFS files
The CBFS computer has File Transport Protocol (FTP) software. This host software allows any internet member with FTP client software to connect to the CBFS machine and retrieve files. Some of the files are stored in a manner that can be retrieved anonymously by any internet member. Other files are protected requiring a password to access.
Files stored on the Bible.acu.edu anonymous FTP server include:
Stone-Campbell - files generated by subscribers to the
Stone-Campbell List including archives of all messages.
Missions - General information such as bibliographies, book reviews, Journal of Applied Missiology and receptivity studies.
Africa - files concerning Church of Christ and demographics in Africa.
To access CBFS files use FTP client software to connect to the FTP host server at
Bible.acu.edu Not all access providers supply FTP client software.
There are two menuing systems available at Bible.acu.edu The first is a set of programs and protocols developed by the University of Minnesota called Gopher. The second is a set of programs and protocols called the World Wide Web (WWW).
Gopher is a pure menu system which gives the member a series of numbered menu items in hierarchial screens. Each item in the menu shows another gopher menu screen, shows the content of a file, uses telnet to connect to a specific host service, uses anonymous FTP to display a listing of files on a particular host service or allows the member to search the menu items for a specific word.
Gopher menu items may point to things on the host computer or any other internet host running Gopher server software. Therefore the CBFS Gopher menus may be a starting point for the member to discover information on host computers all over the world.
The CBFS Gopher menu is accessible to persons using Gopher client software to connect to Bible.acu.edu The CBFS menus are customized to point to information concerning Biblical studies, missions and the CBFS. Not all access providers have Gopher software.
WORD WIDE WEB (WWW)
WWW is a hypertext menuing system. This means the menus are not numbered items but descriptive paragraphs with highlighted words. The WWW client software allows the member to select any one of the highlighted or "hyper" words. The host then does something in response to that selection.
WWW hypertext words may point to other menus, files, databases and services on the host computer or on any internet host that has WWW host software running. The CBFS WWW menus are a good starting point to discover information about CBFS academic programs, courses, professors and events as well as other Biblical, family and missions information. Some members may find their access provider allows advanced connection to internet hosts. This advanced connection allows members to display graphical pictures, listen to computerized audio and watch short computerized movies contained in some WWW menus. The most popular client software having these functions is called Mosaic. Members may want to ask their access provider if they supply Mosaic or Mosaic type access to internet WWW hosts. Not all access providers have WWW software.
ACCESS PROVIDERS (see How To Connect sidebar)
Persons can connect to the CBFS Information Service by subscribing to an access provider. The provider could be a commercial service like American On Line (AOL) or Delphi. The provider could also be a University or corporation. Commercial providers usually charge a monthly fee. Most Universities do not charge but only give access to faculty, staff and students.
Access providers give each member a personal email address. Almost all access providers exchange email with the internet. This means members of one system can send email messages to persons using almost any other system. However some providers charge for each email message the member reads.
Access providers also have discussion groups, database systems, files and menu systems on a variety of subjects on their own host computer. In addition some providers grant access to similar services in all internet host computers.
We recommend Delphi or AOL commercial access providers. Usually it takes just a local phone call for your computer to connect to these providers. Delphi offers unlimited access to internet email and unlimited access to all internet host computer services. AOL is less expensive, gives unlimited internet email access but gives only minimal Gopher access to internet host computers. Some other commercial services have unlimited numbers of hours but have limited or no email or computer host access to the internet.
Compuserve is not recommended because it charges eighteen cents for every internet email message the member reads. Prodigy charges ten cents for every internet email message read. This makes it difficult for Compuserve and Prodigy members to participate in internet discussion groups. Compuserve does not have any access to internet hosts.
Members may decide to bypass an access provider and directly dial into the CBFS Information Service. The long distance charges involved in direct dial access are usually much more than the monthly charges of a commercial provider. Contact Tom Dolan for more information:
College of Biblical and Family Studies
Abilene Christian University
WHAT IT DOES
Exchange private messages
Exchange messages shared with a
group of people
Remote Host Access
Use a remote computer
Remote File Access
Access files on a remote
Menu systems to access other
World Wide Web
HOW TO CONNECT
These are the items you will need to access the CBFS Information Services:
2. Hard Drive
4. Communication program.
5. Subscription to an access provider.
The communication program makes the modem dial a telephone number and set up connections with the access provider computer. The communication program may come with the modem hardware or may be provided by the access provider.
Some commercial access providers:
DELPHI 1-800-695-4005 $13 a month ($10 basic, $3 for internet) 4 hours access a month, $3.50 each addtl hour Full internet email and host computer access
American On Line (AOL) 1-800-827-6364, ext. 3422 $8.95 a month 4 hours access a month, $3.50 each addtl hour Full internet email, limited Gopher access, no telnet, FTP or WWW
Members in Abilene and members needing information concerning other providers should contact Tom Dolan (915)674-3706.
Network - the system allowing computers to talk to each other.
Information Highway - the system many computer networks use to talk to each other.
Internet - one portion of the Information Highway with over five million computers and twenty million members.
Host Computer - a machine hosting information for retrieval by others. Usually a 24-hours-a-day multi user machine allowing many people to access its information simultaneously.
Client Computer - a machine used to access information on other computers.
Email - the ability to send personal messages from one computer to another.
Listserv list - The ability for members to add their name to a subscription list maintained on a host via email. The host will then copy any email message any subscriber sends to members of the list.
Database - an indexed collection of information stored electronically.
Telnet - allows members to connect their screen and keyboard to an internet host becoming a user of the host.
FTP - internet file transport protocol programs allowing members to connect to a host, browse through directories of files on the host disk drive and retrieve or put files on the disk.
Bible.acu.edu - the address of the internet host computer at ACU CBFS.
Moses - this is what faculty, staff and students on campus affectionately call the CBFS computer.
Gopher - an internet numbered menuing system with hierarchial screens allowing internet clients to find information and do things with internet hosts.
Hypertext - paragraph type menus with highlighted or bold words where the computer shows other menus, connects to other systems, shows files directories, or performs word searches of the menus when the word is selected.
WWW - the internet Word Wide Web menuing system allowing hypertext, graphics, sound and movies to be a part of the menu.
Access provider - a host computer allowing members to subscribe and access its own computer resources and perhaps resources on other information highway computers.
Modem - the thing you hook up to your computer to make it dial the phone and connect to a host computer.