Packet

Packet

‘A unit of data for transmission; a group of bits of fixed maximum size and well-defined format that is switched and transmitted as a composite whole through a packet-switching network, any message exceeding the maximum size being partitioned and carried as several packets’ (OED).

The idea of the packet testifies to the priority of form over content in communication. Telecommunication, in particular, is best approached from the point of view of the system, rather than from that of the individual user.

The term itself is remarkable for the sheer consistency of its usage. Messages have always been transmitted over great distances as groups of bits. Since at least the seventeenth-century, ‘packet-boats’ have crossed and re-crossed the seven seas with the primary if not sole purpose of conveying documents of various kinds bundled up into packets.

Byron had a lot of fun improvising rhymes within the constraints of, and with the urgency required by, such acts of bundling up. This is the first stanza of ‘Lines to Mr Hodgson Written on Board the Lisbon Packet’.

Huzza! Hodgson, we are going,
Our embargo’s off at last;
Favourable breezes blowing
Bend the canvass o’er the mast.
From aloft the signal’s streaming,
Hark! the farewell gun is fir’d;
Women screeching, tars blaspheming,
Tell us that our time’s expir’d.
Here’s a rascal
Come to task all,
Prying from the custom-house;
Trunks unpacking
Cases cracking,
Not a corner for a mouse
‘Scapes unsearch’d amid the racket,
Ere we sail on board the Packet.

The unbundling and re-bundling of trunks and cases is felt as an unbundling and re-bundling of the person whose possessions they contain. The packet-boat’s reluctance to distinguish between people and containers (the people being accommodated courtesy of the containers, rather than the other way round) soon gave rise to gloomier speculations. ‘The railroad is in all its relations a matter of earnest business,’ John Ruskin complained in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1854), ‘to be got through as soon as possible. It transmutes a man from a traveller into a living parcel.’ Ruskin’s parcel contains a single item. In earlier use, however, the term was much closer to packet, with the emphasis on its containment or bundling up of a variety of items. Ruskin, at any rate, soon began to think of the traveller as a group of bits in a rather different – but, I would argue, compatible – sense. Travelling by rail, he announced in the third volume of Modern Painters, in 1856, does not amount to anything you could really call travel at all: ‘it is merely “being sent” to a place, and very little different from becoming a parcel; the next step to it would of course be telegraphic transport.’

More recently still, it’s possible to discern a degree of anxiety attaching to the process of packaging involved in telecommunication. There are, as William J. Mitchell puts it, bad bites as well as good ones.

‘The co-ordinates propagated by my wireless devices invite electronic tracking and surveillance. The technology that so precisely guides my automobile to a specified urban location can also guide a missile or a smart bomb. And increasingly, the containers that now speed through the links we have so carefully constructed – from packets on the Internet to the cabins of jetliners – are not only subject to physical hijacking but also to electronic hacking, militarization, re-engineering, re-programming, and being re-combined, re-directed, and turned against us’ (Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, p. 5).

We’re perhaps back in the vicinity of an enduring colloquialism. Since the First World War, to cop a packet has meant to get in the way of a bullet (or a missile guided by the technologies which also guide automobiles). As someone says in Dorothy Sayers’s Murder Must Advertise (1933): ‘I’m really fearfully sorry you copped that packet that was meant for me.’

David Trotter

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Packet

  1. Royal Blood says:

    Very nice post. Thank you.

  2. 1000 words paragraph says:

    Students who are having difficulties finishing their 1000 words paragraph essay can take assistance from GlobalAssignmentHelp.com. For more information please visit @ https://www.globalassignmenthelp.com/blog/write-1000-words-paragraph-easily

  3. Raymond says:

    This is so useful lecture! We should follow these moral instructions for the betterment of the future development! I have found this https://www.schaumburgfence.com/aluminum-fence.html site useful for fencing related projects. I want to make a difference between traditional fencing and the modern fencing system. Thanks for this post.

  4. jolia says:

    https://upmusics.com/ Download New Song By : Masoud Sadeghlo – Noghte Zaf With Text And Direct Links In UpMusic

  5. wiliam says:

    Download New Music BY : Javid Nasiri | Har Shab With Text And 2 Quality 320 And 128 On Music-fa https://music-fa.com/

  6. Download New Music BY : Behnam Bani | Rafti With Text And 2 Quality 320 And 128 On Music-fa https://musico.ir/download/

  7. Jennifer says:

    I totally agree with all these points. china b2b marketplace

  8. anna says:

    First things first – there is no such thing as buy Latin wife. Meeting the love of your life is as common a need in South America as in https://foreignbridesguru.com/ any other country or continent. How do you meet love? By meeting a right bride or a groom, dating a while, and getting married! So, Latin women for sale is not a thing, it’s just a common request people use in Google search.

  9. thanks ///// دانلود ترانه

  10. Mary says:

    The idea of the package indicates the priority of form over content in communication. Telecommunications, in particular, is best approached from the point of view of the system, rather than from the point of view of an individual user. We have prepared for you uk resume so that you have the opportunity to turn to professionals for the preparation of a resume.

  11. Prior during the standard days I had a restricted measure of time and that constrained me to finish my undertakings on schedule however now the sum total of what I have is time. This sort of causes me to delay.

  12. Lucy Hennessy says:

    Thank you for this article
    very useful http://www.idnforums.com/forums/members/annhenley.html

  13. Candace says:

    It turns out that everything you do on the Internet involves packets. Basically, everything flowing through a network can be classified as part of the data enclosed in a packet. A network packet can be referred to as a unit of data (of about 1 KBS to 1.5 KBS) flowing from an origin to a destination address (from a sender to a receiver) within the internet or packet-switched network. Go now

  14. Jim Rhodes says:

    I like poetry too! That’s why it was nice to find your article. You can find some of my own poems https://pro-academic-writers.com/blog/types-of-academic-writing here. I hope you will like them.

  15. open files says:

    Your articles are very interesting and I follow them regularly.
    Torrent File Extension

  16. Helen W. Easter says:

    What an interesting article! I’ve never thought one word can have such a meaning!
    I write my essay on English literature at the moment and I was looking for some researches according to language development and changes. I found some free essay samples that can be useful for students and then I found your great blog! I am a lucky one! Thanks for useful content!

  17. Benjamin V. Martinez says:

    Thank you for the explanation!

Leave a Reply to jolia Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.