When the precursor to the Internet was developed at UCLA in 1969, little did the pioneers know that we would all someday be connected by this thing many times over: Your computer at work has an IP address. Your laptop has an IP address. Your iPhone has an IP address. Even some cars have their own IP addresses now.
And that's a problem.
In 1976, when the U.S. Department of Defense came up with an outer limit for the number of such internet connections that would ever be needed, it settled on the far-out figure of 4.3 billion — almost enough to provide one IP address for every man, woman and child on the planet. Well, as you can guess …
… it's not enough in 2011. Earlier this month the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) doled out its last old-school internet protocol addresses.
Don't worry though, your next smart phone won't be off the grid.
ICANN and a number of computer and internet giants (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Comcast) have been preparing for this day for years and say they're ready to roll out a whole new address system soon.
In fact, the transition to the new address system (“Internet Protocol 6”) is happening now, and a test of the new set-up is set for June 8.
Unfortunately, it could get complicated. Young people, be prepared to head over to your parents' houses that day and do the usual re-booting and reconfiguring.
ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf tells the New York Times:
“I almost wish we could train the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to come to people's houses to help out with this. This is not just about adding extra numbers.It's a different system.”