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The Truth about PING
by Mark Sedenquist

Just about the time that one gets a handle on a working knowledge of wireless communication jargon, (or in the case or the Road Wirer, just enough to sound semi-intelligent at cocktail parties), an e-mail message arrives to set the record straight. In the matter of the source of "PING," which I suggested in Road Wirer #10 could be defined as a "Packet Internet Gopher," self- described "nerd" Ray Tracy sent the following on September 8th:

    " ... I do enjoy your Road Wirer notes, and I'm still disappointed at the paucity of "REAL" wireless Internet connections, but anyway, I just had to write and set the story straight about PING.

    PING actually is a meaningless shorthand word that originated from submarine movies where the sonar sends out this beep kind of signal, and we see the circle on the screen getting bigger and hear the "ping" when it hits something and produces an echo. In networking, we send a packet of data to a node (computer) which unconditionally causes that node to return the packet from whence it came. So in the beginning, we nerds would describe this process by saying, "PING Xxx to see if it is alive." (In fact, if you PING from a Sun UNIX workstation, you would get the response, "Xxx is alive," if it received the packet.) Packet Internet Gopher as a definition didn't arrive on the scene until almost the 90's after the term "Gopher" and "Internet" came into use, and the windbags needed (wanted) to sound professional. Now you know the real story about PING..."

Up until I learned about "Packet Internet Gopher," Ray's Sea Hunt definition is pretty close to what I used in the early months of 1996 to describe the process of sending data along the pathways of the Internet. Now I am wondering about the rest of the current batch of definitions I have been using. So, if you are aware of any more gems in this regard, please let me know!

Hurricane Floyd has made it difficult to reach the Internet this week, so if this column is a little less long-winded than normal, you have an even bigger blowhard to thank!

Mark Sedenquist
Rhinebeck, New York
September 20, 1999