Discovering Your Local Area Network

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In the late 1960’s as large college universities and several research labs gained an ever increasing amount of computers, the need for interconnections that worked at high-speed was great, and the pressure was on. It was not until the mid 1970’s that an answer to the demand was created, they called it LAN.

LAN stands for Local-Area Network, with the ability to cover small areas, such as a home or office or group of buildings (schools, warehouse, etc.), LANs have higher data-transfer rates, smaller range and do not require licensed telecommunication lines as opposed to WAN (Wide-Area Network). ARCNET and Token Ring were two LANs that were widely used in the past. Ethernet and Wi-Fi are two of today’s most common LANs.

A LAN is an important component to gamers. By setting up a LAN, gamers can link together their computers and play with or against their friends. Games, such as “Diablo II” and “S.O.C.O.M.”, allows gamers to cooperate together in a team while either on line or while their computers are connected by LAN.Games, such as “Unreal Tournament” and “Starcraft”, allow gamers connected by the internet or a LAN to work as a team or to compete against each other.computers are usually linked by what is known as a Cat-5 cable to a HUB; and the HUB acts like a mediator. The Cat-5 cable connects to the back of the computer through the Ethernet port on the Network card, network adapter, LAN adapter or NIC (Network Interface Card). A network card operates on both the physical layer and the data link layer; it allows a low-level addressing system, using Mac Addresses, also known as an IP address, and physical access to the networking medium (the HUB). Not all LANs are the same; some use cables while others are wireless.

While other network technology exists, since the mid 1990’s, the Ethernet network card has been leading the crowd, due to low cost and easy integration and use. A unique 48-bit serial number is on every Ethernet network card, stored in the ROM; the serial number is your computers Mac address. The Mac address for every computer must be unique; otherwise only one computer with a given Mac address could be on line and connected to the LAN at a time. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is responsible for each unique Mac address getting assigned to vendors of interface controllers; this is so no two network cards share the same Mac address.

At one point network cards were expansion cards that had to be plugged into the motherboard. Most new computers have the network card built into the motherboard; some may even have two ports built in so the computer can be connected to multiple networks. Some companies have started using optical fiber instead of Cat-5 cables or USB cords, because optical fiber is immune to electromagnetic interference. Optical fibers are made of glass or plastic, instead of metal, and carry light along their full length. The electrical signals sent along the optical fiber degrade less during transfer than signals sent along metal wires (Cat-5 cables and USB cords).

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