Packets

“Through wind, rain, sleet or snow,” is the mail person’s mantra. That image has always brought to my mind a mail person trudging through the snow to deliver the daily mail. During the time that I lived in Colorado, I had the chance to see mail people actually reenact that scene from my mind for me. I still fondly remember the Christmas Eve that I saw the mail carriers delivering packages in the snow to ensure people received their Christmas gifts.

Every day people send and receive information; letters and packages by traditional methods and over the Internet. Not all people are familiar with the basic concept how this is done over the Internet. The traditional method is a common occurrence that most people are familiar with. It begins when someone puts together a letter or package. After putting the package together, a person puts sending and receiving addresses on it. The package is then dropped into a mail receptacle or post office and the package begins its journey to the receiver. In the mail system the package is routed through different levels of mail offices and finally goes to a local mail carrier. That local mail carrier then takes the package to the person on the address.

If you understand how the mail system works, then you are not far off from understanding the basic concept of how the Internet works. Even some of the terminology is very similar. Much like packages travel through the mail system, packets of information travel through the Internet. In addition, an individual’s Internet address is called an Internet Protocol Address, oftentimes shortened to IP. The Microsoft Tech Net site further defines IP as it tells us:

IP is a connectionless, unreliable datagram protocol primarily responsible for addressing and routing packets between hosts … Unreliable means that delivery is not guaranteed. IP always makes a “best effort” attempt to deliver a packet. (Microsoft Tech Net)

As we can see, IP makes a best effort for delivery, much like the mail person does as they leave a note saying you were not home for delivery. The similarities do not stop with this example. As packets of information leave a computer, they are marked with that computers IP and the destination’s IP. The packet then travels to an Internet service provider and then routes the packet to your destinations computer through a series of networks. The receiving system is identified by its IP. This is very similar to how a packet is sent through a series of offices to arrive at its destination.

An IP is the address system of the Internet but people don’t type in an IP when the are looking for a site. People type in a name like www.google.com for reaching a site. On the Internet, many IP addresses are bound to a name for ease of use. This is done through a process called Domain Name Service, or DNS. DNS allows a person to type in the name as opposed to having to remember an IP like 216.239.39.99 for Google. I often think of this process as having a telephone speed dial for phone numbers. On my phone all my friends have speed dial numbers assigned to them. So instead of remembering a ten digit number, I just remember the speed dial. DNS is just the speed dial that the Internet uses for everyone.

No matter if you are sending mail or e-mail, information has to travel. It is only logical that in the building of the Internet, the same basic concepts that have been used for years were borrowed from the mail and telephone system. While people may claim they know nothing of how the Internet works, deep down they really do.


Who is Paul Darr?

Paul Darr has lived in the Inland Empire region of California, Oregon, Colorado and currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. Paul is also an Army Veteran, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. On the political spectrum Paul is a Libertarian that advocates fiscal responsibility and social tolerance. Paul is currently employed as a Computer Support Technician and is a father of a handsome boy and beautiful daughter. In his free time Paul enjoys reading, using and modifying open source software, gaming and several other geeky pursuits.

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