Quick Reference to TCP/IP

Most offices (and most other places with multiple computers) have set up at least a very simple network to allow their computers to share printers, files, and maybe even email. NetWare, AppleTalk, Windows for Workgroups, and a wide variety of other network systems make it fairly simple to accomplish basic tasks with a minimum of wiring and complication. Larger networks use additional protocols to handle transferring information between different kinds of computers and network connections. Most of these networks are designed to provide a fairly simple core of services including file sharing, printer sharing, and certain kinds of interactivity needed for client-server databases and other interactive services.

TCP/IP, developed for the Internet, is a complete set of protocols that let a wide variety of different machines transfer information over distances from a few feet to across the world. Most Local Area Networks (LANs) don't use this protocol, unless for some reason they're connected to the Internet. TCP/IP doesn't have to conflict with other protocols, and can be wrapped neatly into NetWare and AppleTalk packets, though this can get complex if not mind-boggling in large networks where multiple machines using multiple protocols are trying to communicate. For most of the purposes this document explores, the simplest possible network is probably the best, so I'll stick to discussing TCP/IP without explaining in detail the tricks you need to make TCP/IP coexist with other network protocols.

TCP/IP was originally developed in the 1970's for ARPAnet, the predecessor of the Internet. TCP is the Transmission Control Protocol, and IP is the Internet Protocol. Together they can send packets of information from machine to machine across networks, through routers, and between a wide variety of different systems. Although it has its flaws, TCP/IP has become the lingua franca of the Internet and of large networks generally. It's only one of a wide range of protocols that are used to connect machines on these networks, but for the purpose of Internet services it's the main one we have to work with. Thee are rother protocols we may use for transmitting over phone lines, over ethernet, but for most of this discussion we'll be dealing only with TCP/IP and applications that use it. The underlying operating systems will deal with the mechanics of getting information from one place to another, and browser will manage the way the information looks to users, but we'll still have to configure the middle.

For more information on TCP/IP, see the bibliography.

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Copyright 1995 by Simon St.Laurent. All rights reserved. You may print this document for yourself or others at no charge, but commercial distribution without permission is prohibited.

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