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IP Addresses Explained

Hello. I want to share information I have been learning about in my free time this week. And that is: IP addresses, otherwise known by the tech gods as The TCP/IP Protocol Framework.

“The Client in a TCP/IP connection is the computer or device that “dials the phone” and the Server is the computer that is “listening” for calls to come in.”

-TAL Technologies

This topic caught my eye because though I am a dedicated member of Gen Z, and avid user of most social networks, I have never stopped to understand just how my devices all communicate with each other on a network. Obviously, most of us have seen an IP address stamped on the back of our home router or maybe even coincidentally seen the subset of numbers while fiddling in the settings of our smaller devices. But what do the numbers represent? Let’s discuss.

First things first…

I’m sure you would not be shocked to know that the internet and networks we use don’t identify our devices by the fun and funky names we give them. Computers communicate in numbers, and their IP’s are used as identifiers for the true binary scramble happening under the surface of it all.

“IP” stands for “internet protocol,” which is part of Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TPC/IP). It is “IP” for short. TCP/IP is the language used for communication by most networks.

When it comes to our internet compatible devices, there are actually several IP addresses involved. Both public and private. Private addresses talk to the internet at large. This is the number you would see on your home router that is assigned by your internet service provider(ISP). The router handles all the traffic from your devices and routes it out to the internet. (That’s why it’s called a router.) Essentially, the private IP communicates with the public IP.

Back in the early days of this protocol it was decided that all available addresses would be split into groups. The groups are called classes. The idea was to make address allocation scalable. We will talk about the main three classes.

Class A

Class A addresses are between 1.0.0.0 to 126.255.255.255 with a subnet mask of 255.0.0.0. Number of hosts available for a single Class A network is 16,777,214. A MASSIVE network.

Class B

Class B addresses are between 128.0.0.0 to 191.255.255.255 with a subnet mask of 255.255.0.0. Number of hosts available for a single Class B network is 65, 534. Still large.

Class C

Class C addresses are between 192.0.0.0 to 223.255.255.255 with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. Number of hosts available for a single Class C network is 254. This is most commonly used for small business and home internet connections.

….after that, I never want to type ‘255’ again.

Subnet Masks

A subnet mask is always paired with an IP address. It is used to identify both the network section and host section of the address. In its simplest form, whenever you see ‘255’ this is part of the network. Whenever you see a zero, this is the host part of the address.

Example pictured

***In an IP, each set of three numbers is referred to as an octet. Each octet contains 8 bits, making the grand total for an entire address equivalent to 32 bits.

From IPv4 to IPv6

Because we are running out of addresses as technology becomes more and more prevalent everyday, a new version of internet protocol was introduced in 2012 that includes a system to slow down the rates at which IP addresses are being used up. This is called NAT.

NAT stands for Network Address Translation. It takes multiple IP addresses from inside your network and presents a single IP address, pointing out towards the internet, thus reducing the number of IP addresses being used. ONLY a public IP address can be used over the internet. It must be a single unique number.

Your ISP issues you with the public IP you use over the internet. This helps prolong the life of IPv4 because instead of using an internet compatible address for every one of the devices we own, we only use one.

What is my Public IP?

Open a browser, go to Google and type in “What is my IP?”. It will then show you your public IP address.

Note on Private IP’s

The beauty of private addresses is that they can be used by anyone. For example, your neighbors might also be using the same IP addresses as you are. This is fine because private IP addresses only need to be unique within your own network.

Analogies

Think about this.

For the United States Postal Service(USPS) to work, every house(private) in a neighborhood(public) needs to have its own unique address. If you were to send a letter, the destination address is written on the envelope for the house(private) so the postman knows exactly where to deliver it in the neighborhood(public). If the address is not unique, your letter could go to someone else or you could begin receiving someone else’s mail.

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Hey! If you have anything to further add to this description explaining how our world wide internet works, please don’t hesitate to comment on this post publicly or send me a message privately. (see what I did there). I recognize I only know so much and I am very open to feedback.

Thanks for reading. :)

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