Dave Totten's personal voyage to the land of IT Fluency, and other Digital Governance issues.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fluency Milestone #8: Networking


The "postcard analogy" is probably the most clear explaination for TCP/IP I have ever seen. Writing one sentence on each postcard until an entire novel had been composed, then sending the postcards out one at a time to a publisher across the world... Each card takes a different route to its destination, but the publisher can begin to assemble them as soon as they start coming in. If one postcard is lost in the mail, the publisher can ask for a replacement. To imagine that this is happenning millions upon millions of times as I surf the web, is staggering.

I do remember my first encounter with a TCP connection... over my 14.4K modem in 1994. I had just traded in my 10-year-old Apple ][e for 133mhz Dell with a Pentium inside and a 1 gigabyte hard drive. It had 16mb of RAM! It was quite impressive next to my old 128Kb Apple. I first used my modem to connect to the University of Alaska's ISP using Lynx, a text-only browser (yes, it's still around--and compatible with Windows XP!) Then, my roommate, a computer science major, decided it was time for me to start using TCP/IP... After an hour of messing with the settings, I opened Netscape and saw the World Wide Web as Vint Cerf had imagined it. There was ESPN and Yahoo and AltaVista (the precursor to Google). It took forever for that picture of Tony Gwynn to show up on my screen, but there was the whole World Wide Web in all it's glory. Heady days.

And, by the way, I was right: Vint Cerf, inventor of IP and evangelist of the packet concept, was fond of wearing a T-shirt reading "IP on Everything".

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