Destroy All Software

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2021-11-25 21:30:04

The network stack does several seemingly-impossible things. It does reliable transmission over our unreliable networks, usually without any detectable hiccups. It adapts smoothly to network congestion. It provides addressing to billions of active nodes. It routes packets around damaged network infrastructure, reassembling them in the correct order on the other side even if they arrived out of order. It accommodates esoteric analog hardware needs, like balancing the charge on the two ends of an Ethernet cable. This all works so well that users never hear of it, and even most programmers don't know how it works.

In the old days of analog telephones, making a phone call meant a continuous electrical connection from your phone to your friend's. It was as if a wire were run directly from you to them. There was no such wire, of course – the connection was made through complex switching systems – but it was electrically equivalent to a single wire.

There are too many Internet nodes for it to work in this way. We can't provide a direct, uninterruptible path from each machine to each other machine it wants to talk to.

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