Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is an Ethernet?

Hi Metro!

My boss was joking around the other day and called the ethernet the "alohanet." I thought maybe he was saying this because the data went through back and forth--or like "hello, "goodbye," the way "aloha" means both. But the more I thought about it, the more I figured maybe he knew something more and I got very curious. Now it has been a couple days and I didn't want to ask, so I was wondering if you could explain what he meant and what an ethernet really does.

THANKS & Aloha!

Robert S. -- Clueless in Charlotte

Hello Robert,

Simply, an Ethernet connects computer systems creating a network. Ethernet is the most widely-installed local area network technology (called a "LAN") and is found nearly everywhere there is more than one computer.

Today's Ethernet was originally developed by the Xerox Corporation from an earlier type of connection called "Alohanet" (for the Palo Alto Research Center Aloha network)--which is why your boss used that rather obscure reference!

An Ethernet LAN will generally use coaxial cable (just like your cable wire to set up cable on your TV) or special grades of twisted pair wires, (which is similar to the wire used for your power connection for your laptop, or more simply, your toaster!) But, Ethernet is also used in wireless LANs--it is the type of connection, not necessarily how the connection is made.

So next time your boss pulls that little bit of technology trivia out... feel free to share this one:
Ethernet was named by a gentleman, Robert Metcalfe, (one of Ethernet's developers), for the passive substance called "luminiferous (meaning: light-transmitting) ether" that was once thought to exist all over the universe, carrying light throughout. Ethernet was named this to describe the way that cabling, also also a passive medium, could similarly carry data everywhere throughout the network.

Have a great day,

The IT Guy
(and tech trivia guru!)

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