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Ping through the (computer) ages

The word Ping has quite an illustrious history in the world of networked computers and the arrival of the interwebs on Planet Earth.

Arguably it's an over-used term possessing both sporty and techy overtones, so Apple's decision to adopt it for its latest iTunes-happy music service might be considered by some as a bit lazy.

Readers with long memories will of course recall freeware network tool PING, which was developed in 1983 by Mike Muuss - a senior scientist at the US Army Research Lab in Maryland. He specialised in geometric modelling, virtual reality, digital networks and operating systems.

"I named it after the sound that a sonar makes, inspired by the whole principle of echo-location," Muuss explained.

"In college I'd done a lot of modeling of sonar and radar systems, so the 'Cyberspace' analogy seemed very apt. It's exactly the same paradigm applied to a new problem domain: ping uses timed IP/ICMP ECHO_REQUEST and ECHO_REPLY packets to probe the 'distance' to the target machine."

Muuss sadly died in a car crash in 2000, but his Ping source code lives on, having been ported to systems such as MS Windows 95 and Windows NT way back when.

Ping has of course also featured in works of fiction and cartoons. There's the Swiss stop motion animation Pingu, and The Story about Ping, which tells the tale of a duck alone on the Yangtze river.

Any of these names could have inspired Jobs to use the Ping name in his latest Apple strategy boutique pontification.

But we'll leave you with the words of the somewhat obscure late 80s Irish Band Sultans of Ping FC, whose most famous song you can now presumably share with others on iTunes Ping.

"Dancing in the disco, bumper to bumper / Wait a minute, where's me jumper? / Where's me jumper? Where's me jumper? / Where's me jumper? Where's me jumper?..." ®

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