Wednesday, 24 March 2004 18:00

Antique Packet

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Dateline, September 3, 2147

Minneapolis -- In a rare view of 20th century life, Cyber Archaeologist Ole Anderson of Minneapolis has discovered an extremely rare throwback to the 20th century: an ancient IP version 4 packet containing HTTP --the primitive method that early Internet builders used to transfer data in what predated our now familiar way of communications.

Anderson is convinced of the packet's authenticity since IP version 4 packets have not been seen on the global network in 115 years.

"When I discovered the packet", says Anderson, "I couldn't believe my eyes. It contained an IP version 4 header which at first I couldn't decipher. Amazingly, the the contents of the packet are in plain text which means that I didn't even have to break the primitive crypto algorithms they had in those days. The packet seems to be directed at what was termed a `web site' and an individual called This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We are still trying determine what a `ta-tas' is."

Anderson claims that the packet was trapped in a networking equivalent of suspended animation which preserved it for close to 150 years.

"The packet got trapped in a MPLS forwarding loop. It was widely believed at the time that packet life times were unnecessary because routing tables would converge and that misconfiguration would be rare. This was proven to be wrong and culminated in what has now known as the Network Panic of 2002 where a critical mass of packet entropy caused a worldwide collapse of the nascent Internet. Since then, all packets are marked with explicit lifetimes."

More remarkable is that Anderson found the packet at all. The packet was found in an antique shop in Duluth run by Doris Davenport on relic hardware by a company once known as Cisco Systems. Cisco, we all remember, was the first company that officially disbanded in the early 2020's because all of the employees were worth enough to retire in comfort, some as young as 19 years old.

The packet has been kept alive by the good fortune of battery backup and the bustling market for antique electronics.

"It's certainly fortunate that people are so fond of these relics," says Anderson, "I guess it must be the blinking lights and the knowledge that our great-great grandfathers worked so hard on these simple little toys."

As far as Anderson can tell this may be the earliest known packet yet. It dates to 1999 which was right at the cusp of wide spread MPLS usage.

"It's hard to imagine that we'll find anything that predates this packet, so we're examining it very carefully for clues as to what life was like so very long ago. Conventional wisdom has always held that it was digital media swapping that fueled the early Internet, but this packet brings that all into question because by all appearances it seems to be directed at some sort of pornography distribution point."

Anderson will continue his search for more sources of ancient packets to bolster his new and disturbing theory about 20th Internet economics.
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