Computers talk to each other over the internet via messages. However, the internet is not reliable and sometimes these messages get lost. There are certain bits of information we can add to messages to make sure they are sent. This information makes up a protocol.
In this activity, students consider how different methods of communication operate successfully. By looking at rules and procedures in place, students are introduced to communication protocols. By working through a role-play scenario, pupils test their own protocol operating in an unreliable environment similar to that found in packet switching on the Internet, specifically, TCP/ IP.
On the internet, data is broken into packets for transportation. However, the channels in which these packets travel is not always reliable. Individual packets sometimes are damaged, lost or lose their ordering.
In the game Tablets of Stone, tablets are packets and their content is data. Packets contain both data and header information. The size of the header information affects how much data can be transferred – so a balance has to be reached, as packets are of finite size.
Students will find that they will need to swap some of their data boxed for information such as packet number and total packets, or whether or not the packet is an acknowledgment packet. Due to this information taking up data boxes, overall more packets will be needed.