Computer Networking Technology Continues to Speed Forward
Who remembers the Commodore 64? Released to the public in the early 1980s, the Commodore 64 was the most popular computer on the market for a number of years. In fact, it is still the highest-selling single computer system to this day, with an estimated 17 million-plus units sold.
The Commodore 64 featured revolutionary graphics and sound for a machine of its time, and for that reason was widely popular for playing games. It also had a built-in data recorder known for its slow processing times and little storage space. While a floppy disk attachment was eventually released, it did little to increase storage capacity.
The networking capability of the Commodore 64 and other early single-user computer units during that time was minimal. A dial-up modem soon became available, which allowed users to connect with public bulletin boards to access early online games. This also enabled users to “chat” and message each other, basically setting the stage for what is known today as the Internet.
Development of computer networking technologies and early versions of the Internet began in the late 1950s, and were in use by the military and science communities by the following decade.
During the early days, machines with the same capabilities as today’s desktop computers were so large they required multiple floors in order to operate. The compact size of today’s computers can be credited to the development and evolution of the microprocessor, which allows communication to take place at lightning speeds through conveniently small devices.
Networking Becomes the “Norm”
In the 21st century, computer networking has become part of our everyday lives. The Internet has been in widespread use for around 20 years, allowing us to instant message each other, send large documents, share photographs and have the equivalent of a world-class library at our fingertips. These things have all become routine in our high-tech world.
What’s Behind the Network?
Simply put, a computer network consists of multiple computers that interconnect. A Local Area Network (LAN) is a computer network residing in one locale, such as a building, an office or a campus. A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a computer network that is spread throughout a large geographical area. The Internet can be considered the largest WAN on earth!
The actual connections and cabling within computer networks often go overlooked. This is not the glamorous side of computing by any stretch, but it is a network’s “lifeline.” When networking was in its infancy, information transfer was very slow due to the fact that only one piece of information could be transferred at a time. This could also be attributed to the limitations of the cabling, which was basically telephone wire at that point.
With the advent of “packet transfer” technology, multiple pieces of information were able to be switched back and forth simultaneously. This revolutionized the speed at which computer networks operate. Along with the computing technology came an upgrade in the actual network connections; the cabling.
We now have Cat5e bulk cable, which provide an amazing amount of bandwidth for information transfer compared to original network cabling. And for jobs requiring faster speeds, Cat6 bulk cable provides even more bandwidth. Fiber cable is used in the largest and fastest networks.
Just like networking, technology is not slowing down. We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years of “personal” computing. The prospect of what’s to come is exciting to ponder.