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back to article What did the Romans ever do for us? Packet switching...

These days, it would be hard to find anyone who doesn't take networking for granted given the ubiquity of the Internet. Yet without some clever coding and data management techniques the Internet would crawl, if it worked at all. Digital video guru and IT author John Watkinson examines the various applications for networks and …

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Well, that was a bit unexpected

I expected a warts-and-all diatribe about technology and networks and infrastructure, and it was almost there before digressing suddenly onto politics and propaganda at the end.

A bit disappointing :(

Enjoyed the bits about the BT networks and fibre differences and so on.

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"infra structure"? What's that? Do you mean "infrastructure"?

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I think he means the underground ducts and tunnels that carry the comms fibres and cables.

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WTF?

Why this is a top story in el reg, where most of its readers are IT pros and students, quite scapes me. This looks like high school stuff.

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Go

I remember forgetting this stuff....

Although it's not quite a "burning bush" of an article, it brought back a lot of basics that had been archived in the basement area of my brain..

Sometimes articles like this can be refreshing to read..

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Go

Because many of the top IT pros and most of the students don't know how we got to where we are today. No, seriously, they don't. You might think it's school stuff, but not everyone was paying attention in school and network things probably passed by almost everyone who didn't want to become a network person.

And its only when you understand how we got to where we think we are that we can properly start to plan for where we want to be and how we're going to get there.

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Oops. Maybe most are normal people who are interested in stuff.

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You live in a wonderful dream world. I work at a school. I feel joy when teachers manage to spell correctly.

Standards in education are, I assure you, flushed away.

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Boffin

Morse isn't binary

Morse is more complex than simple binary. Morse uses dots & dashes, but also timing of the spaces between a dot & dash, between letters and the spacing between words.

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Boffin

Re: Morse isn't binary

Errm… it's on-off keying… where the time it takes you to send a 'dit' is the unit of time. The "frames" that make up each character are separated by a space the length of a 'dah' … that's 3 dits. Morse is just one of many ways to encode characters as a binary code. Varicode is another. ASCII is yet another.

1000101110101000000101110100010001110111 ← That look like binary to you? Look closer… I'll bet you can see Morse symbols there.

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Anonymous Coward

What have the Romans ever done for us?

I'll try and get the ball rolling...

Sanitation

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Pint

Re: What have the Romans ever done for us? @AC 12:32

Maybe you need to read this book. The only thing the Romans gave us was the modern concept of a standing army.

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Meh

Re: What have the Romans ever done for us? @AC 12:32

They gave us the cobblestone roads all over Europe, and the ruts in them, too, from the chariots.

And STDs.

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Re: What have the Romans ever done for us? @AC 12:32

When it comes to things military, they also gave us logistics[1], the military manual, field artillery, standardised uniform / weaponry..........etc ad nauseum.

[1] And as a side effect, the formal concepts of strategic and tactical maneuver.

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Alert

"The next generation of network was the railway"

*cough*

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Re: "The next generation of network was the railway"

re https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canals_of_the_United_Kingdom

I'd argue not. The canals were not, from our point of view, next gen. They didn't need or result in a step change in any other technologies (apart from lock building). Canals were just watery roads. Yes more payload, but still at horsey speed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The next generation of network was the railway"

They changed a lot of things - look at some of the construction involved - mile long tunnels and engineering like :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontcysyllte_Aqueduct

None of that would have been done when it was done if canals weren't the lifeblood of the industrial revolution.

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Re: "The next generation of network was the railway"

Didn't say the canals weren't Big Engineering (having done a bit of Industrial Archaelogy I can bore you to tears on the subject) and yes they had a pretty big impact but they were not next gen: they were an extension of already apparent engineering principles. Of course, cast-iron meant that stronger and larger bridges could be built but most aqueducts were still granite/wood and puddle clay affairs with the appliance of a bit more thought and more construction.

By no means the same effect as the invention of the steam locomotive/iron rail/consequent speed-between-distant-towns combo.

As far as canals go, there's a natural progression from boats on rivers, ditch-digging and bridge-building. First known navigable canal was around 510BC - not new.

Aqueducts started around the same time (although water-carrying ones admittedly) - not new and a couple of the ones into Rome are still being used.

Navigable ones in the late 17th - not new

Locks - the Chinese some time - can't be buggered to look it up. - not new.

We joined all the dots and improved locks, summit canals, aqueducts in the 18th.

Yes, a gap of a few centuries that perhaps makes it look like a big leap but there was no impetus for us to do it until the industrial revolution brought the need: many of the resources were inland. Up until then there was no reason for county or national scale projects. Not enough money and not enough people either!

But still, from a technological point of view, canals really are only boats floating down a man-made river. (Sorry for the disjointed sentences, I'm only half concentrating on this).

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Anonymous Coward

I quite enjoyed this article on the brief history of Networks, Good work. What were the commentards above expecting, a Whitepaper or RFC? That's what textbooks are for.

The sheer amount of work and technical knowledge that goes on behind the scenes so that you can play your 'YouTube Cats' or stream your 'One Direction on Spotify' is hugely understated by the media and critically our Educational Establishments.

Studying Networks is the best thing I could have done for my career as it opens up a whole new world of troubleshooting and helps you to make sense of everything else. Put that together with some decent Linux/Windows knowledge, the ability to get your hands dirty and build a PC from parts, an inquisitive mind and you're golden.

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Childcatcher

I agree - good overall article.

These are the sorts of articles what need published in a better archive fashion. They're not really white papers, but they deserve to be available in a library (perhaps in PDF). Wikipedia doesn't quite catch it in the same way.

El Reg - a library please. Oh wait, we've got one. El Reg - more history papers please.

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"Studying Networks is the best thing I could have done for my career as it opens up a whole new world of troubleshooting and helps you to make sense of everything else. Put that together with some decent Linux/Windows knowledge, the ability to get your hands dirty and build a PC from parts, an inquisitive mind and you're golden."

I have to agree.

When I was younger, my friends and I wished to create a network between our PCs in order to play multiplayer games. We failed, initially, due to a complete lack of understanding of event the basics of IP. The next day I visited the local library and took out a book on networking. At about 2 and a half inches thick (and weighing, so it felt, more than I did) it was not an easy read, but it covered everything above the physical layer of ethernet through to IP, TCP and UDP and some higher level protocols.

I won't pretend I can remember even half of it, and I am no network genius, but it gave me a good foundation of knowledge. I find it hard to understand that some IT techs don't have a clue about these matters. Networks are so fundamental to everything we do.

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Anonymous Coward

'...this looks like High School stuff' - yeah, right, if only...

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Anonymous Coward

true, world would be a better place if it was actually learned (and tested) in High School

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Fall of the Roman Empire

Just remember that the fall of the Roman Empire was hastened by the lack of a zero in their numbering system, as without it they had no way to terminate their C code.

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Re: Fall of the Roman Empire

I thought it was because they hadn't invented the semi-colon.

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Pint

Re: Fall of the Roman Empire

So you could say it was the lack of Zero which terminated their string ...

Sorry, is it Beer Friday yet ?

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Good stuff

But a bit paranoid at the end.

Mainstream media won't let you in cos they hate complex stuff. It's not that they don't like your message - they simply recognise that their mass audience don't want to hear it. After all - If their mass audiences actually understood that HDTV was a meaningless concept in the current broadcasting environment they wouldn't give a shit and buy the shiny anyway.

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Freeview vs cable

<blockquote>It is legitimate to question whether fixed devices warrant the use of terrestrial radio transmission when a cable or fibre can be used.</blockquote>

True, but you also need to compare the power requirements between, say, Crystal Palace (1.2 MW ERP over the 6 multiplexes), and the multitude of cable broadnarrow-cast boxes required to match the coverage of CP. Hint: terrestrial broadcasting is horribly inefficient, but still miles better than pushing the signal down copper.

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Horrible inefficient? - Re: Freeview vs cable

Inefficient in what way? The amount of power in ERP is much greater than the actual power output of the final power amplifiers of the transmitter because of the very high gain of modern antennas.

Also consider that there is no cost for installation of cable, fiber or copper, just set up a transceiver and maybe a small antenna. Google is planning (or already doing) the high altitude blimps for terreestrial WiFi coverage

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-05/26/google-blimps

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Re: Horrible inefficient? - Freeview vs cable

Inefficient in what way?

Well, in the whole "losing more than 99.9% of the energy between source and sink". It's one of those situations:

RF transmission is one of the worst methods of broadcasting, apart from all the other methods ever tried.

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No Roman signalling?

I was half expecting to see a bit about the way that the Romans had a high speed signalling system from hilltop to hilltop using flashing mirrors.

Can recommend "The Victorian Internet" as a bit if a eye opener to those who think they've seen it all, anyway.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Victorian-Internet-Tom-Standage/dp/0753807033

And for the building of the physical internet and the social side of the routing of it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tubes-Behind-Scenes-at-Internet/dp/014104909X

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Vail

A friend of mine, who claims to be a distant relative of Morse's assistant, Alfred Vail (so perhaps not the most objective authority...) claims it was Vail who made the code a statistical one.

// de KA1AXY

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I was almost disappointed

...until at the end of the first page I realized I had 3 more pages to go. Some are complaining this article covers the basics I wager many readers (like myself) are novices in many technological subjects. Now excuse me as I Google additional information on Morse code, Greenwich Mean Time and the roads in Britain.

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Happy

Thanks for the diaeresis

An example of in-band forward error correction, yes?

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Packet Switching

Packet switching is only more efficient where the traffic is random, or as good as.

If you find that you have lots of traffic heading for the same destination, or that is part of a sliced up continuous datastream (as in a telephone call or streaming video for example) then circuit switching becomes more efficient. This is because the packet overhead consumes a significant amount of the available bandwidth resource. In a TDM network that destination intention needs only be signalled once and then the entirety of the channel bandwidth can then be used for payload. In a TDM network a G.711 call takes 64Kbits - the same call presented as an RTP stream over IP consumes 96Kbits.

My belief is that the next 'step' in networking will be to introduce a hybrid model where both packet and circuit switching are used according to the type, urgency and distribution of traffic being handled by network nodes. Before IP won the networking wars the logical next step looked to be the B-ISDN standard. Circuit switching at a much higher bandwidth (probably 2Mbps) than the existing 64Kbits narrowband ISDN.

Both networking models have advantages and disadvantages - and historically we've tended to swap between packet and circuit models, from the days of the first postal systems. We've reached a point where it's affordable and feasible to do both using the same endpoint.

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Boffin

Re: Packet Switching

The problem with packet overhead can also be solved by upping the packet size. We're currently doing 1Gbps on local networks, cranking up on 10 or even 100Gbps on backbone links, yet we're still stuck with a 1500 Byte MTU because most Ethernet hardware can't be arsed to stop supporting the old creaky thicknet (thinnet?) limit. IIRC we're currently losing something like 4-5% of bandwidth in packet headers, which might go down to 0.5% if we switched all networks to 9000 MTU jumbograms. Hell, I even think our current tech is good enough to even support 20k jumbograms by now! The 10Gbps hardware is already suffering because of the measly 1500 limit. We're going to need bigger packets...

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Re: Packet Switching

Extra large packets are no good for real-time applications though - all you do would do with voice is increase the propagation delay while you wait for enough bits to fill your new super sized packet.

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I remember forgetting this stuff....

HUH? How could you remember forgetting it if you forgot it to begin with?????

Right....

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WTF?

Re: I remember forgetting this stuff....

HUH? How could you remember forgetting it if you forgot it to begin with?????

Right....

Like after a long day at work I get home and upon seeing my wife I realize that I forgot to pick up something at the store?

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Re: I remember forgetting this stuff....

Like after a long day at work I get home and upon seeing my wife I realize that I forgot to pick up something at the store?

You better hope she is in a forgiving mood; or you will be sleeping in the doghouse tonight.

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In countries where traditional telephony was in extensive use, there is always a large infra structure of copper wire between exchanges and subscribers, the so called last mile. The replacement of all that wire would be a daunting and expensive task.

That is exactly what we are doing in Australia: replacing the "last 1.6km" of copper with fibre-to-the-home. It's called the NBN (National Broadband Network). Yes it is expensive (although it could have been done much less expensively if former PM John Howard hadn't privatised Telstra, necessitating buy-back at a huge loss). Yes it is daunting, which might explain why Tony Abbott plans to scrap the whole thing if (when) he wins the upcoming election. But if by some miracle Labor manages to hang on by the skin of its teeth, we will (eventually) get a proper fibre network.

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Anonymous Coward

NBN bah humbug

I'd just like to have a working phone on my property 34km west of Kempsie NSW - I don't give a rat's a**e if its ISDN on copper, VOIP on fibre, gsm on radio, or IP on an avian carrier. Not had a working phone since 'they' tore down the analogue mobile net

The only thing that works reliably is a satellite phone, and it costs big time, and the only vaguely affordable internet is 256Kbs satellite

Howards privatisation of Telstra only compounded the error made in 1993 when Telecom Australia was corporatised. That was the time to do the split, but Keating didn't have the knowledge, the courage and/or the numbers. Who blocked it - the unions and big business, same unholy alliance who blocked Tax Reform a decade earlier.

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Interesting article.

However, this bit I disagree with:

But then the whole of IT has its roots in military requirements, just as aviation does.

Aviation, as far as I'm aware, was very much a product of civilian trial and error, and individual entrepreneurship, whether you're talking about early lighter-than-air craft, through heavier-than-air craft to powered flight. I cannot think how you can justify saying that it has it's roots in military requirements.

However, there is no disputing that military requirements lead to a very rapid development of powered flight once the principal was accepted.

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Also, a lot of IT came out of non-military industry and science. Look at the history of Hollerith's census machines which built on the Jaquard looms etc. Computing did not start with the computer.

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> However, this bit I disagree with:

> But then the whole of IT has its roots in military requirements, just as aviation does.

> Aviation, as far as I'm aware, was very much a product of civilian trial and error

I think the author means not the invention itself, but the way it developed, once its military potential was realised (something which was by no means immediate).

By the way: s/([^a-zA-Z]?)(princip)al([^a-z])/\1\2le\3/

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Bitterly disappointed. I read the title as 'What did The Ramones ever do for us?' so the absence of Blitzkrieg, Baseball Bats, Gabba and Glue left me bewildered until I re-read the titles.

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Got as far as...

In today’s different world that same grid continues to work well when supplanted by distributed inputs from photo-voltaics and wind power... and stopped reading because you'd strayed into dishonesty. The grid works perfectly well without such inputs as the inputs from said methods are neglible and unreliable.

I'd forgotten how crap this site can be these days.

Thanks for reminding me.

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Stop

Re: Got as far as...

Wind your neck in! It's not dishonest, it's enbtirely and demonstrably true.

The sentence you refer to makes no reference as to the efficacy of those inputs, only that it is able to incorporate them. How is a factually correct statement dishonest?

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"Heavily compressed DAB is the sonic equivalent of Michelangelo's David made out of Lego"

lmao

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Re: "Heavily compressed DAB is the sonic equivalent of Michelangelo's David made out of Lego"

Also true of .mp3 files, as compared to CD quality audio.

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