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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Internet Meltdown

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 20, 2008


The Internet is headed for a "meltdown?"


Over the past month, I have noticed news stories in various publications and web sites announcing that the Internet will "run out of addresses" sometime in the future.


Best estimates say that it could happen as soon as 2011.


This sounds similar to the shortage of telephone area codes, which resulted in reassignment of area code territories.


Or, maybe the Y2K scare as we entered the 21st Century.


Or, the confusion over the change of television signals in 2009.


This must be a result of the rapid growth of new technologies in our day and age.


When the current addressing system was introduced to the Internet in 1981, there were about 500 computers online.


Today, we are approaching 4 billion computers worldwide connected to the Internet and the addressing system is nearing its max.


The problem is not the normal web addresses that you type into the browser window assigned by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.


The problem relates to numerical Internet protocol (I.P.) addresses that denote the devices that are connected.


The I.P. addresses form the framework of the Internet and allow everything online to operate.


To use our library system as an example, we use two banks of I.P. addresses to allow all the routers and servers to make our system work.


They were assigned through the State of Ohio Department of Administrative Services, as we are part of the State's communications backbone.


Those I.P. addresses allow the automation system to work, they allow the online databases to be accessed, and they serve as a "traffic light" for information traveling the pipeline.


 The solution doesn't appear to be as easy as adding another area code and dividing an area into different area codes.


The solution involves major reconstruction of the Internet framework, and actual replacement of major sections.


In the meantime, we will patch and repair using "splitters" to divide existing addresses.


But eventually, it will need replaced as the whole thing slows down under the load of use.


While I realize that we can't turn back now, wouldn't it be nice to be able to get away from the Internet and cell phones, and all those devices that fit in our palm and do all sorts of things?


We used to wait until we got home before telephoning someone.


We used to write using the King's English rather than the gibberish that passes as the written word.


We used to use information sources that were researched and referenced, rather than something composed by someone unknown.


But then, the Internet provides us with such a wealth of information never before available to everyone, accessed by a myriad of devices and equipment.


I guess it comes to choice.  It is each person's choice as to how, when, and what information you access for your life.