The .htaccess is a feature of the Apache web server. As far as I know, the Apache implementation for windows also can work with a .htaccess. I don't know if other web server products (MS-IIS, BEA, ...) have copied that design.
Thank you Mohamed_E for those links. I had done a search, but had difficulty finding information at the level I currently need. The resources you've suggested look like they will be very educational for me.