RC and the WEB by Clay Ramskill ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Meet Rich and Mary. They live in the Northwestern U.S., are members of a thriving RC club; he's the Secretary, she does a really nice newsletter. They're both nice folks who write well, have a menagerie of critters around their home (including a small herd of Llamas), and enjoy RC people and flying.
As much as I'd like to, I've never met Rich or Mary. I've never even talked to them. But I've gotten their newsletter, transmitted to me in full color in just a couple of minutes. I've corresponded with them, exchanged some files -- all through my computer.
On the World Wide Web portion of the Internet, modeling, individuals, clubs, and national organizations (like the AMA) have an ever-increasing presence. From Iceland to Australia, modelers share pictures, information, and experience to whoever may seek it out.
You can order parts for your plane or engine. You can send and receive electronic messages (E-mail) in a flash to any similarly equipped computer. You can get the specifics of Dr. Selig's latest low speed airfoil research, or download (retrieve to your computer) other aerodynamic information. You can read magazines. You can find RC flying sites in any state, or find information on RC clubs. You can find out how to tune your engine. And most of everything you do find is only the tip of a very huge iceberg!
All you need is a computer with a modem (connects your computer to your phone line), access to the internet, and software to make it all work (a browser). The advice of someone who's already "there" is a good idea, too.
The internet is arranged in several formats; the easiest to use and the most rapidly growing portion is the World Wide Web (www). Under this protocol, text, pictures and other data can be sent worldwide, as quickly as calling across town. Hundreds of thousands of individuals, companies and organizations host "home pages", which may only be a small amount of information or be the front for an extensive collection of goodies. And any picture or word can be highlighted as a "link" - if you click on it, you are transported to another site, which could be anywhere in the world! You see the "addresses" for these sites increasingly in your paper, magazines, on the TV, even billboards as folks jump onto the information superhighway.
The AMA "page" ( http://www.modelaircraft.org/ )is a good starting point -- they give you staff directories, contest schedules, lots of stuff you can download to your computer (like an application to join the AMA), and lots of "links" to other WWW sites all over the world. Tower Hobbies ( http://www.towerhobbies.com/ ) and Hobby Shack have even more extensive sites, including club listings and full catalog and ordering capability -- plus, even more links to other sites.
Many RC clubs also maintain their own WWW pages. Typically, they will include information about their club, perhaps a map to the flying field, several editions of their newsletter, and pictures of their field and members' models. Some clubs even have two newsletter editors -- one for "snail mail" and one to do the WWW edition. Clubs will also include links to other clubs and related organizations, like their local city Chamber of Commerce.
Individuals also sometimes host RC related WWW pages. These range in complexity from a few pictures of a guy and his RC model, to extensive compilations of information, pictures, or trivia. And, as always, more links to other sites!
"Online Services" such as CompuServe, Prodigy, and America Online also have areas for modelers. In CompuServe, it is called ModelNet, and it includes archive pictures, data, and "chat groups" where folks can trade BS with each other. (Some of these guys need to get a life!) Usenet, another area of the Internet, is also a "trade stories" type of operation.
I've "visited" RC sites all over the world, not to mention the U.S. The logos shown are from Norway, Cyprus, Australia, and Belgium -- only a few of the myriad of clubs and organizations with a WWW presence.
If you have the time to poke ("surf") around on the WWW, I highly recommend it. Just don't let it detract from your building and flying time!