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The Computer Corner


December 10, 2023

by Charles Miller

This month marks an anniversary, but one that only a computer nerd could really appreciate. It was 40 years ago in December 1983 that one of the most versatile and widely-used computer network diagnostic tools was born. This week I thought many readers might find it entertaining to learn a little more about this utility because anyone who uses the internet has probably heard the name "ping" without knowing much about it.

The original PING acronym stood for "Packet INternet Groper" which was a collection of several diagnostic utilities used by technicians at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to test the performance of the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) which years later evolved into the internet we all use today. The modern "ping" command was written by Mike Muuss and immediately became one of the most important network diagnostic tools in existence. Originally written for the Unix operating system, the idea behind it carried over to other systems including Windows and Mac. Mr. Muuss named his program after the metallic sonar sound effect heard in old movies about submarines, and thus "ping" may now be correctly written in lower-case.

The purpose of the ping command is to give you a simple yes-or-no answer to the question "Are you connected to the internet or some website on it?" For example, type in the command "ping" and the computer will try to find and connect to the server at Yahoo. If the test succeeds it then reports to you how long the packet took to make the round trip. It usually takes only a few milliseconds for the packet to travel from your computer, through your wireless router, through your internet connection to some place such as Chicago, then return; all the while testing every server along the route. The ping command is very popular with technicians because this one program may be used to perform several useful fault-isolation and network diagnostic tests.

If your computer is connected to the network, but does not seem to be connecting very well; the ping command may be used to measure time and distance. By pinging different internet web sites located on different servers in different geographic areas, it is often possible to determine whether it is your local network or just one website that is slow. The ping command may also be set to ping over and over and over again ad nauseam. This can be helpful in confirming intermittent connections.

Ping is a simple way to investigate if your internet connection problem is your equipment or is an issue your ISP (Internet Service Provider) needs to fix. When you phone your internet provider to complain that you cannot connect, sometimes they will justifiably brush you off. But if you can tell the tech that you ran a ping test and the results said "request could not find host" or "Minimum=88ms, Maximum=689ms, Average=308ms" you are more likely to have your complaint taken seriously by them because now you are speaking their language. Even if you do not understand those test results, they will.


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with decades of IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted at 415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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