Few days ago I posted about the internet of things and how it’s going to make our lives very easy even more than it is now, but then I felt I should talk about what the internet is and how it works. In the 1970s, the now called “Internet” was designed by two men named Vint Cerf and Bob Khan. Then it was called the “ARPANET” which is the acronym for “Advance Research Project Agency Network”, it was a defence department research project for the military. Then Paul Baran contributed to the project by figuring out how to bond a communication that would survive a nuclear attack, then he had an idea of breaking messages into blocks and sending them as fast as possible in every possible direction. That was how it all started and now it has expanded to become the “Internet” a global network, not for the military alone but for the whole world.
News now spreads across the globe in less 5 minutes, we can simply talk to persons online through social medias such as; WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. Either by chatting or video call. We can easily do a lot research of research on a particular project or subjects by simply searching for them on the internet. Persons can now learn or take online courses of their choice and earn a certificate when they are done etc. But then, how does this internet really work? What makes it this fast, reliable and efficient?
First of all, what is the internet?
The internet is a web of pages connected to each other by hyperlinks. It is simply a wire connected between a Google data center (which is thousands of miles away from us) and our devices and this wire is a complex network known as optical fibre cables. Everything we access through the internet(websites, videos, music etc.) are stored in the Google data center more specifically in the internal memory of the Server within the Google data center which is accessed by a solid state device(SSD) also within the Google data center. A server is a special computer connected directly to internet. Although our devices (phones and laptops) are not servers because they are not directly connected to the internet, they are clients because they are indirectly connected to the internet through an internet service provider (cellular data or WIFI) which gives it a string of numbers called internet protocol address or an IP address.
An IP address is more like our house addresses and every server has an IP address. Just as we have our home address is characterized by the local address, the city, state and country, that’s the same way an IP address is as well. So for us to access a data stored inside a server in the Google data center we must know the IP address. But then it would be difficult for us to remember a lot of numbers, so these numbers (IP address) were given domain names such as; yahoo.com, Facebook.com etc. Just like the contact numbers in our devices are saved by the names we remember. So this is how it works, when we type in data, it is being broken down into very little bits known as packets and then these packets goes to find the corresponding IP address in the Domain Name Server (DNS), then when it gets the address it goes to it through routes(with your IP address attached) , everyone takes the best route suitable for them(via the optical fibre cables) at that point in time, it’s more like a competition, the first packet to get to the destination server gets the closest result to the data you typed in.
So as each packets get to the server they arrange themselves based on how close the result they got is to your data typed in, then when the last packet gets to the server and gets it result, they break down again but this time carrying the result and they are routed via the optical fibre cables in the form of light pulses which have to travel thousands of miles back to our (IP address) devices. Then getting to our doorstep, connected to a router which converts the light pulse signals into electrical signals then it is being transmitted into our laptops or desktops through an Ethernet cable (if using a laptop or desktop) but if using cellular data, from the optical fibre cable, the signal is transmitted into a cell tower and from there it reaches our mobile phones in form of electromagnetic waves. But millions or even billions of persons uses the internet per time, how come these data don’t clash with each other? Well, that’s because Protocols are used for the management of this flow of data packets, attachment of the source and destinations IP addresses to the packets and the rules for routers.
The amazing thing about this is that all of these explained happens in less than five seconds and that’s how the internet works.
- Optical fibre cables are laid and managed by few global companies such as; AT&T, Orange, Verizon and Google.
- Optical fibre cables are the backbone of the internet.
Since the internet is a global network, things such as the assigning of IP address and domain names registration etc. Is managed by an institution located in the United States of America called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAN).