very basic quextions: public key encryption

From: walterbyrd (
Date: 08/04/04

Date: 4 Aug 2004 08:22:12 -0700

As I understand it:

1) Sender encrypts plaintext, sends it to me along with public key.

2) I decrypt with my private key.

Q: What exactly is my private key? How do I get it? Where is it
stored? Do I only use it once? Do I have some special program that
generates it? Do I have to be using a specific software application
that is in sync with the senders software application?

Does the sender send everybody the same public key? If not, what makes
it "public"? If so, how can that be secure?

Although there seems to be thousands of sources that explain the basic
process, in about the same level of depth that I use in steps 1) and
2) above; I can't find any source that answers these sufficient
detail. Without understand simple details like "what exactly is a
private key?" I can't really get my mind around the process. Any help
is appreciated. Thank you.