The Internet Is Like Your TV – Explaining the Internet to My Father

My father is 84 years old and grew up, for obvious reasons, without computers and the internet. So I sometimes get requests from him that I can’t accomplish because he does not understand how the internet works. My father will ask me to change something on the Yahoo mail site (I setup his browser to go there as his home page). Similarly my mother will respond to my reference about some website with “do we have that on our computer?”
The following is the analogy I tried to use to explain how the internet works:
The Internet Is Like Your TV
You have a TV which has a number of channels. You can control which channel you watch by going to channel 2 vs 4 vs 7. In reality channels are much more complicated, like on a radio each one has its own frequency, but we don’t have to know that we only have to know channel 2 is FOX. Each channel is controlled by a different company. Every TV that is hooked up to your cable provider will see the same content on the same channels. If someone buys a TV from Sony or from Magnavox, they still see the same channels and the same shows. Your cable company enables you to connect to these channels but it does not control which shows each channel shows.
The internet works similarly as follows. Each website:,, is run by a different company. The address for each website is like the channel number. So there is a lot of complexity that gets you to your email when you go to, but you don’t have to know that, you just have to know that address. Everyone on the internet, like everyone on your cable system, has the same websites that they can go to. Your browser (FireFox) is like your TV. There are different browsers like different TVs made by different companies but they all still connect you to the same websites. What I did when I setup your browser (FireFox) to connect automatically to Yahoo mail is basically just like leaving your TV set on channel 2. I changed what content shows up, what website, when you start it up. But what I can’t do is change what is on Yahoo mail when you get there. That would be like changing what is on channel 2 when you turn your TV to that channel. Only the company who owns that channel, only the company that owns a website, can change what you see when you go there.

Author: chris2x

One man's view of life in Silicon Valley from Chris Christensen - a podcaster, blogger, programmer, entrepreneur

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