Up until recently I have had several misconceptions about what the internet is and how it works. Since being introduced to my new module ‘252 MC Digital Media’ I have begun to develop an understanding as to what it truly is. In this post I aim to summarise briefly a few functions in the way the internet operates.
First of all it surprised me to learn that the internet is a physical thing, made up of large computers, which store files on them connected by large wires, running along sea coasts and wrapping all around the world. Webpages are stored as files on these large computers and we view them by letting our computers search for and retrieve these files. I will attempt to explain how this is carried out later on but firstly I want to explain my understanding of how messages and files are transferred between computers.
In order to communicate to another computer I didn’t realise the file you are trying to send has to undergo so many processes before it even leaves the computer. The first of which is the computer has to translate the information into a computerised language. The translated piece then has to be broken up into manageable pieces called packets, making it easier to be transferred. These packets need to be reassembled at the computer you are trying to communicate with, so to help it do that each packet is assigned a port number. Once the information is ready to send it then has to locate the other computer, via its IP address (each computer has a unique IP address). The computer searches by accessing a series of modems and routers until it is found and the file is then sent to this IP address. Once the file is received it then has to reassemble it, using the port numbers and then translated back into its original format.
Earlier I mentioned that webpages are stored on a computer and in order to be viewed they need to be searched for and retrieved. This can be done by just knowing the domain name. Each domain name has a corresponding IP address, which your computer has to know in order to retrieve it. It does this by accessing a series of databases that store the domain name on with their corresponding IP address. These databases aren’t stored on one computer so you have to search through several before getting the IP address. Once the right one is found your computer then knows which file to search for, it then locates it and pulls it back to your computer.