1.2—Your Amazing Router

The internet is built on the backs of some amazing machines—-routers. Routers are how information gets everywhere on the net. Routers are like the postal system of the digital world. When you send a request from a computer to get a web page, your amazing little router does a lot of important stuff at lightning speed. Then it gets help from a lot of other routers, some big and some small, all over the globe to deliver that page to you.

Here are some of the things your hardworking router does for you:

Computers don’t use human language addresses. So when you ask for say, Facebook.com, your router has to find out what in the heck that means in the computer world. So it has to send a question to a special server someplace else in the world that keeps a record of the number address that goes with Facebook.com. The router takes a look at the address and determines if it’s in the same network as it is, in this case our private network belonging to Newport Wireless Mesh. Not in our network? Then the router knows it has to send the request for the website to a gateway that connects to the worldwide web. But how to get there? Here your brainy router does some fast complicated mathematical calculations, using a table it keeps of all the other routers it’s in contact with and checking to see how good the links are between the other routers and what is the fastest way at that particular moment to get to a gateway that connects to the internet. Our gateway is at the United Church, where the router on top is connected by a long cable to the fiber optic connection in the control room inside the church. The beauty of the mesh is that even if one way to get there is blocked, say by lots of interference or a big truck, the router can quickly calculate the next best route. It may not be as fast as the best route under better conditions, but at least your request will get there!

The whole round trip from your computer to it’s destination host and back again with your requested information only takes about 1/10 of a second or less. That’s 1/10 of a second. As you sit at your computer, sending and receiving information, your hardworking router is performing these calculations over and over again countless times nearly without fault. All it asks is a little electricity. So when you walk by, be sure to have a kind thought for this machine that brings so much enjoyment into your home.

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