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Chapter 16. The Internet > Underlying Architecture

Underlying Architecture

When you get right down to it, the Internet is a long set of connected cables, stretching around the world. The fundamental idea of communicating over a net-work involves a number of different layers of support, starting at the hardware level and adding increasing levels of abstraction until you get to the level where you and I work. It would be almost impossible to write applications if each software vendor had to write its own software to transmit information over a network, packaging and unpacking it at either end and then doing whatever was required by each different application.

To hide the differences between each different type of network card, computer system, and operating system, computers that communicate over a network do so by agreeing on common ways of organizing data, starting at the level where bits of information are packaged and transmitted over a network cable, all the way up to the level where an application simply opens a file and the operating system figures out if it is located on the local computer, a different user’s computer, or even on a dedicated fileserver somewhere out on the network. Each of these agreed-upon standards is known as a protocol. The sum of all of these different protocols and their associated layers of communication is known as the architecture of the network.


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