Published on Feb 21, 2020
TCP/IP is a set of protocols developed to allow cooperating computers to share resources across a network. It was developed by a community of researchers centered around the ARPAnet. Certainly the ARPAnet is the best-known TCP/IP network. However as of June, 87, at least 130 different vendors had products that support TCP/IP, and thousands of networks of all kinds use it.
The most accurate name for the set of protocols we are describing is the "Internet protocol suite". TCP and IP are two of the protocols in this suite. (They will be described below.) Because TCP and IP are the best known of the protocols, it has become common to use the term TCP/IP or IP/TCP to refer to the whole family. It is probably not worth fighting this habit. However this can lead to some oddities.
For example, I find myself talking about NFS as being based on TCP/IP, even though it doesn't use TCP at all. (It does use IP. But it uses an alternative protocol, UDP, instead of TCP. All of this alphabet soup will be unscrambled in the following pages.) The Internet is a collection of networks, including the Arpanet, NSFnet, regional networks such as NYsernet, local networks at a number of University and research institutions, and a number of military networks. The term "Internet" applies to this entire set of networks.
TCP/IP is a layered set of protocols. In order to understand what this means, it is useful to look at an example. A typical situation is sending mail. First, there is a protocol for mail. This defines a set of commands which one machine sends to another, e.g. commands to specify who the sender of the message is, who it is being sent to, and then the text of the message. However this protocol assumes that there is a way to communicate reliably between the two computers.
Mail, like other application protocols, simply defines a set of commands and messages to be sent. It is designed to be used together with TCP and IP. TCP is responsible for making sure that the commands get through to the other end. It keeps track of what is sent, and retransmitts anything that did not get through. If any message is too large for one datagram, e.g. the text of the mail, TCP will split it up into several datagrams, and make sure that they all arrive correctly. Since these functions are needed for many applications, they are put together into a separate protocol, rather than being part 5 of the specifications for sending mail.
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