5. Network - TCP sockets

The building block of most of the internet is the TCP socket. These sockets provide a reliable stream of bytes between the connected network devices. This part of the tutorial will show how to use TCP sockets in a few different cases.

5.1. Star Wars Asciimation

The simplest thing to do is to download data from the internet. In this case we will use the Star Wars Asciimation service provided by the blinkenlights.nl website. It uses the telnet protocol on port 23 to stream data to anyone that connects. It’s very simple to use because it doesn’t require you to authenticate (give a username or password), you can just start downloading data straight away.

The first thing to do is make sure we have the socket module available:

>>> import socket

Then get the IP address of the server:

>>> addr_info = socket.getaddrinfo("towel.blinkenlights.nl", 23)

The getaddrinfo function actually returns a list of addresses, and each address has more information than we need. We want to get just the first valid address, and then just the IP address and port of the server. To do this use:

>>> addr = addr_info[0][-1]

If you type addr_info and addr at the prompt you will see exactly what information they hold.

Using the IP address we can make a socket and connect to the server:

>>> s = socket.socket()
>>> s.connect(addr)

Now that we are connected we can download and display the data:

>>> while True:
...     data = s.recv(500)
...     print(str(data, 'utf8'), end='')

When this loop executes it should start showing the animation (use ctrl-C to interrupt it).

You should also be able to run this same code on your PC using normal Python if you want to try it out there.

5.2. HTTP GET request

The next example shows how to download a webpage. HTTP uses port 80 and you first need to send a “GET” request before you can download anything. As part of the request you need to specify the page to retrieve.

Let’s define a function that can download and print a URL:

def http_get(url):
    _, _, host, path = url.split('/', 3)
    addr = socket.getaddrinfo(host, 80)[0][-1]
    s = socket.socket()
    s.send(bytes('GET /%s HTTP/1.0\r\nHost: %s\r\n\r\n' % (path, host), 'utf8'))
    while True:
        data = s.recv(100)
        if data:
            print(str(data, 'utf8'), end='')

Make sure that you import the socket module before running this function. Then you can try:

>>> http_get('http://micropython.org/ks/test.html')

This should retrieve the webpage and print the HTML to the console.

5.3. Simple HTTP server

The following code creates an simple HTTP server which serves a single webpage that contains a table with the state of all the GPIO pins:

import machine
pins = [machine.Pin(i, machine.Pin.IN) for i in (0, 2, 4, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15)]

html = """<!DOCTYPE html>
    <head> <title>ESP8266 Pins</title> </head>
    <body> <h1>ESP8266 Pins</h1>
        <table border="1"> <tr><th>Pin</th><th>Value</th></tr> %s </table>

import socket
addr = socket.getaddrinfo('', 80)[0][-1]

s = socket.socket()

print('listening on', addr)

while True:
    cl, addr = s.accept()
    print('client connected from', addr)
    cl_file = cl.makefile('rwb', 0)
    while True:
        line = cl_file.readline()
        if not line or line == b'\r\n':
    rows = ['<tr><td>%s</td><td>%d</td></tr>' % (str(p), p.value()) for p in pins]
    response = html % '\n'.join(rows)