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"[Science fiction] is the one literary medium left in which we have a free hand. We can do any damn thing we please."
- Alfred Bester

Carson Circuit  
  A means of distinguishing betweem millions of different information sources - the secret of the Internet.  

The Carson Circuit is defined here as a hardware device, connected with relays.

I was servicing televisions before that guy Carson invented his trick circuit that will select any of 'steenteen million other circuits - in theory there ain't no limit...

You know the Logics set-up. You got a Logic in your house. It looks like a vision-receiver used to, only it's got keys instead of dials and you punch the keys for what you wanna get. It's hooked in to the Tank, which has the Carson Circuit all fixed up with relays. Say you punch "Station SNAFU" on your Logic. Relays in the Tank take over an' whatever vision program SNAFU is telecastin' comes on your logic's screen. Or you punch "Sally Hancock's Phone" an' the screen blinks an' sputters an' you're hooked up with the Logic in her house an' if someone answers you got a vision-phone connection. But besides that, if you punch for the weather forecast or who won today's race at Hialea or who was mistress of the White House durin' Garfield's administration or what is PDQ and R sellin' for today, that comes on the screen too. The relays in the Tank do it. The Tank is a big buildin' full of all the facts in creation and all the recorded telecasts that ever was made - an' it's hooked in with all the other Tanks all over the country - an' everything you wanna know or see or hear, you punch for it an' you get it. Very convenient.

From A Logic Named Joe, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Street and Smith in 1946
Additional resources -

Although the Carson Circuit is seen as a hardware device, it is a pretty good functional description of what every Internet server does with a URL. The URLs you use to get what you want on the Internet consist of an IP address and then the specific file location. Except for reserved addresses, there are 256 to the fourth power IP addresses, or 4,294,967,296 different network device locations possible. Not quite "ain't no limit" but they are working on it.

The IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6), a new and improved network layer IP standard, will offer (among other improvements) an increase in the number of addresses for networked devices. The current standard, IPv4 supports about 4.3 billion, as mentioned above. Which seems like a lot, but hardly up to Carson Circuit standards.

IPv6 will support 3.4 times ten to the thirty-eighth power addresses. It's hard to come up with a set of physical things that can give you an idea of how big a number that is; the total number of stars in the observable universe is estimated at only about 7 times ten to the twenty-second power.

The story gives a perfectly recognizable description of what we call the Internet today.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A Logic Named Joe
  More Ideas and Technology by Murray Leinster
  Tech news articles related to A Logic Named Joe
  Tech news articles related to works by Murray Leinster

Carson Circuit-related news articles:
  - Our Futuristic Data-Net Is In Trouble
  - Sony Internet TV Foreseen In 1946

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