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'Good Wife' Inserts Fake IP Address Into Primetime

Internet engineers, take note: The IP address has been added to the pop-culture vocabulary.

This Sunday’s episode of CBS’s The Good Wife tackled a ripped-from-the-headlines story about Bitcoin, a “virtual currency” that the U.S. Treasury is trying to shut down as enabling money laundering and transactions among child pornographers. The drama hinges on the fact that nobody knows the identity of its creator, “Mr. Bitcoin.” (I won’t spoil the ending.)

Bitcoin and the mystery about who’s behind it is real, as outlined in this well-reported piece last fall in The New Yorker (subscription required).

In the episode, a cryptographer traces the IP address of a computer used to insert a message into new Bitcoins: “127.09.01,” he tells Lockhart & Gardner investigator Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi).

It’s not a valid IP address; IPv4 uses four sets of digits. The engineering joke is that IP addresses starting with “127″ are reserved to point to a local host, a “loopback” mechanism that doesn’t work on the public Internet.

The twist? The IP address belongs to Lockhart & Gardner — and the computer that was used was Sharma’s own. (Fade to commercial.)

Anyway, it was the first time I’ve noticed such an Internet-geeky reference in mainstream entertainment, although IP addresses may have been used in a show or movie before. It’s the equivalent of using a phone number with a “555″ prefix — so that people don’t actually try to dial it up. (As listeners of Tommy Tune’s one-hit ’80s wonder Jennyapparently did with the famous “867-5309″ from the chorus.)

You can watch the episode on CBS.com here (for the next two weeks or so). The fake IP address is referenced at 29:55.

Of course, if The Good Wife had wanted to be really cool, it would have used a bogus IPv6 address (see Comcast, TWC, AT&T To Join ‘World IPv6 Launch 2012′). Probably too long for TV. An IPv6 address has eight groups of four hexadecimal digits like this, per the ISOC’s IPv6 FAQ: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334.

UPDATE: I’ve been alerted to several other instances of IP addresses being used in TV shows over the years, including in episodes of Law & Order, CSI: Miami and Num3bers. Check out this blog post for examples of inaccurate tech references in shows and video games.

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