Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

3.18. What is Gopher?

Gopher is a menu-oriented way to "cruise and browse" the Internet Gopher presents you with lists of the Internet's files, programs, resources, services, and other menus, in the form of easy-to-read point-and-click menus. By simply positioning the cursor or entering the appropriate item number, you make selections and thereby cruise much of the Internet using nothing more than a few keystrokes.

More than 4,500 businesses, government agencies, individuals, and others around the world are making their information and services available to Internet users via Gopher, making it one of the most popular user tools on the Internet today.

Gopher was originally created by people in charge of microcomputer support at the University of Minnesota as a better way to let users access several thousand files of online answer information. The name Gopher reflects its capability of "going fer" things. (The gopher is also the University of Minnesota's mascot.)

Gopher let the support staff structure these thousands of files into a hierarchy of menus that users navigate by using some combination of arrow keys, the Enter key, mouse clicks, or selecting by number.

Each menu contains selections with one-line text descriptions. Gopher menu selection can be a file containing text or any other types of documents (such as a weather map, file of mail messages, or an image); access to another program, such as Telnet, FTP, WAIS, finger, a searching tool, and so on; or another menu. When a file is selected, it is retrieved and presented to the user at his or her screen. Gopher also lets you save the selection as a file in your local account, or you can e-mail it to someone, or print it.

A Gopher menu can contain any mix of these items as well as an almost unlimited number of them--hundreds, to be sure. With Gopher users can define bookmarks to save and quickly relocate specific items without having to search and navigate to them step by step.

The Gopher server program handles management and "serving" of files. Each user runs a Gopher client program, which handles things like displaying the received menus and files.

Users at other Internet locations began using Gopher as an easier way to make information available to other Internet users. Gopherspace--the Gopher servers available to Internet users--rapidly climbed to 1,000, then 2,000, then 3,000 Gopher servers (and still growing), holding over 2,000,000 menu items!

Gopher clients are available for every popular type of PC and computing environment--DOS, Windows, Mac, Amiga, UNIX (using ASCII and X Windows). Gopher servers are available for almost as many types of computers.

Here's an example that shows you how Gopher allows you to seamlessly zip among Internet hosts, services, and tools just by picking from a menu:

Internet Gopher Information Client v1.11

                     Gopher headquarters (

      1.  Information About Gopher/
      2.  Computer Information/
      3.  Discussion Groups/
      4.  Fun & Games/
      5.  Internet file server (ftp) sites/
      6.  Libraries/
 -->  7.  News/
      8.  Other Gopher and Information Servers/
      9.  Phone Books/
      10. Search Gopher Titles at the University of Minnesota <?>
      11. Search lots of places at the University of Minnesota  <?>
      12. University of Minnesota Campus Information/
Internet Gopher Information Client v1.11


 -->  1.  Cornell Chronicle (Weekly)/
      2.  French Language Press Review/
      3.  Minnesota Daily/
      4.  NASA News.
      5.  National Weather Service Forecasts/
      6.  Other Newspapers, Magazines, and Newsletters /
      7.  Purdue University News/
      8.  Technolog (Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota)/
      9.  The Bucknellian Student Newspaper at Bucknell University/
      10. The Daily Illini (University of Illinois)/
      11. The Gazette (University of Waterloo)/
      12. The University of Chicago Chronicle (biweekly)/
      13. USENET News (from Michigan State)/
      14. University of Minnesota News (U Relations)/
      15. Wire Service News (Reuters/AP/UPI) U of Minnesota Only/

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