All you ever wanted to know about IP and it's history
The concept of the Internet Protocol (IP) has been with us for many years now and with the latest version, IP V6, just around the corner this series of articles is going to serve as a primer to all things IP.
As an introduction, we will refresh ourselves on some of the common principles of networking and we will look at the history of IP and its core concepts. Then it is on to IPV6, the new kid on the IP block, and here we will look at what IPV6 is all about and why is it needed. After that, we will see what some of the uses for IP are from Voice Over IP through to Broadband -- IP is there for a reason and we'll find out why.
But before we start, and as a way of introduction, lets take a brief look at the history of the Internet, after all without the World Wide Web we might not have IP and certainly would not be looking forward to pain relief that is offered by IP V6.
Then there was the Internet
Today the Internet is seen as the network that has revolutionised life as we know it. Over the last few years the Internet has touched just about every aspect of our lives -- from the ability to shop online from the comfort of our own home in the dead of the night to the collapse of the dotcom bubble risking the livelihood of so many individuals, through to the ability to instantly communicate to anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as they're connected.
That is today, but what about yesterday? Over 40 years ago, a series of memos from J.C.R. Licklider of MIT discussed a 'Galactic Network' that would enable social interactions without boundaries. At that time, in August 1962, computers communicated through binary or simple text entry with data passed from one point to another through circuit switching -- this type of network has a physical path dedicated to a single connection between two end-points in the network for the duration of the connection. Circuit switching was a well-established technology that had been in use in the telephone networks for over a hundred years, but the main problem with it is that circuit switching made highly inefficient use of network resources.
Before the Internet could happen there had to be a new communication method. Packet switching uses relatively small units of data called packets, which are passed through a network based on the destination address contained within each packet. Breaking communication down into packets allows the same data path to be shared among many users in the network. This type of communication between sender and receiver is known as connectionless, rather than dedicated. Most traffic over the Internet uses packet switching and the Internet is basically a connectionless network. In a packet switching environment, all components (i.e., hosts and switches) operate independently, eliminating single point-of-failure problems. Packet switching has the additional advantage that whilst network resources appear to be dedicated to a single user, there are in fact multiple users passing data back and forth across the network at any single point in time.
Luckily for J.C.R. Licklider and the rest of the online world, packet switching was discovered in 1961 as Leonard Kleinrock of MIT published the first paper on packet switching theory in and the first book on the subject in 1964. The next year Paul Baran, of the Rand Corporation, outlined the idea for a robust, efficient, store-and-forward data network in a report for the U.S. Air Force. At about the same time, Donald Davies and Roger Scantlebury suggested a similar idea from work at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the UK. Interesting enough, these three areas of research happened in complete isolation from one another and it was not until 1967 that the principles actually met face to face at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Originally, the Internet started life as a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) experiment to connect DoD funded research sites in the U.S. The ACM meeting in 1967 saw the first publication of the initial design for the ARPANET (named for the DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency - ARPA) by Larry Roberts.
In December 1968, ARPA awarded a contract to Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) to implement a packet switching based network with a 50 kbps line speed. September 1969 saw the first node of the ARPANET installed at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), followed monthly with nodes at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the University of Utah. With four nodes by the end of 1969, the ARPANET spanned the continental US by 1971 and had connections to Europe by 1973.
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