In Alexander Galloway’s extract from the MIT press, he discusses the historical becoming of the internet, the importance and reliance on protocol, and how it all actually works.
I realised after the first few pages that even though I spend hours upon hours of my week on the Internet, I wasn’t sure how it developed into what it is today. Even though it is the “most extensive computerised information management system” that we know of, I didn’t actually know how it came to be what I spend my time doing.
The Internet’s roots came from the American military and academic cultures of the 1950s and 1960s. The academic intentions were to link computers in scientific laboratories to one another across the country, so that researchers could share resources. Meanwhile, the military wanted to create a computer network that was independent of centralised command and control, and thus would be able to withstand attacks that target centralised hubs. So that’s where the idea came from.
The 1980’s witnessed UNIX to be the most important computer operating system. Within this included TCP (Transmission control protocol) and IP (internet protocol). In 1984, DNS, or Domain Name System was invented by Paul Mochapetris.
There was a lot of talk within the reading about protocol, but what actually is it? One way of looking at it is:
a set of recommendations and rules that online specific technical standards. This concept is the core of networked computing.
Today protocol has immediate relevance to internet and networks. 50 years ago it was more focused on such things as social etiquette and diplomatics. Within International relations, the origin of the word refers to any introductory paper summarising the key points of a diplomatic agreement or treaty. Nowadays, protocol refers directly to the standards governing the implementation of specific technologies.
The other major concept discussed by Galloway was DNS. It has a lot of power and influence. It creates rigidly defined hierarchies within the internet. DNS is a database which connects network addresses to their names. To translate from network address to domain name, the computer needs to be assigned a specific address on the physical network, known as an IP address. It is a series of four numbers. Xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx. Think of DNS as a phone book for the Internet, by translating human-friendly computer hostnames, e.g. www.website.com into an IP addresses. consisting of numbers. The DNS information pattern mimics the structure of an inverted tree, and thus access for certain counties, for example, to the internet can easily be cut off if need be.
Regardless of whether we are familiar with the protocol of protocol, we must try to understand it. After all, it is the core of networked computing and it isn’t going away any time soon.