Word of the Week: Ping

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July 22, 2011

Ping is a short computer program used to measure the time it takes for a small packet of data to make a round-trip journey to a remote server or node via the Internet. SLAC’s PingER project uses Ping to monitor the health of Internet connections worldwide and identify nodes and regions that have poor performance or would benefit from upgrades.

The PING program was written during a single evening in December 1983 by the late Mike Muuss. He had modeled sonar and radar systems in college, so he called the program “PING” after the familiar percussive tone made by sonar systems. It was quickly incorporated into the popular "Berkeley UNIX" computer operating system and ultimately was ported into virtually all commercial operating systems, such as Windows and Mac OS.

Though other, more advanced utilities now exist for monitoring Internet connectivity, Ping remains a favorite due to its simplicity, ease of use, and the fact that Ping is everywhere. That also makes it uniquely suited for the PingER project, as the locations most in need of identification by PingER might not support a more advanced application.