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An Overly Simplistic Introduction

What is it?

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Procotol/Internet Protocol) has become the standard vehicle for communicating over the Internet. This has also led to it being largely accepted as a standard for communicating within many companies.

IP Addresses

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is analogous to a phone number. Each individual station on a network needs its own IP address. A well-configured station needs to know When configuring TCP/IP on most machines, it is usually possible to explicitly assign these values. If you get them wrong, then you will probably not be able to reach the rest of the TCP/IP network. It is more common to assign these values to each workstation dynamically via a service called DHCP.


Data travelling between machines on a TCP/IP network is broken up into one or more packets.


Ports allow multiple concurrent conversations at the same IP address. A socket (one end of a conversation) can be represented as the combination of an IP address and an port number. Certain "well known" ports are normally assigned for specific functions. For example, telnet servers usually listen on port 23.

The "echo" port is used by the ping utility which can be used to determine if a given TCP/IP host can be reached over the network.

Directory Services

Name servers let you find out the IP address if you know the (host) name for another station on the network. Again, the IP addresses for name servers are usually provided dynamically to workstations.


TCP/IP has evolved over time and the standards have been revisited over time. The degree of compliance to the latest standards can vary between different implementations. Some behaviour may be considered as desirable rather than mandatory. RFCs ("Requests for Comments") have been used as a vehicle to document Internet Protocol standards.

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