Thursday, September 18, 2008

History LAN

As larger universities and research labs obtained more computers during the late 1960s, there was increasing pressure to provide high-speed interconnections. A report in 1970 from the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory detailing the growth of their "Octopus" network[1][2], gives a good indication of the situation.

Early systems

Cambridge University's Cambridge Ring was started in 1974[3] but was never developed into a successful commercial product.

Ethernet was developed at Xerox PARC in 1973–1975,[4] and filed as U.S. Patent 4,063,220 . In 1976, after the system was deployed at PARC, Metcalfe and Boggs published their seminal paper - "Ethernet: Distributed Packet-Switching For Local Computer Networks"[5]

ARCNET was developed by Datapoint Corporation in 1976 and announced in 1977 [6] - and had the first commercial installation in December 1977 at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York[7]

The Personal Computer

The development and proliferation of CP/M-based personal computers from the late 1970s and then DOS-based personal computers a from 1981 meant that a single site began to have dozens or even hundreds of computers. The initial attraction of networking these was generally to share disk space and laser printers, which were both very expensive at the time. There was much enthusiasm for the concept and for several years, from about 1983 onward, computer industry pundits would regularly declare the coming year to be “the year of the LAN”.

In reality, the concept was marred by proliferation of incompatible physical layer and network protocol implementations, and confusion over how best to share resources. Typically, each vendor would have its own type of network card, cabling, protocol, and network operating system. A solution appeared with the advent of Novell NetWare which provided even-handed support for the 40 or so competing card/cable types, and a much more sophisticated operating system than most of its competitors. Netware dominated[8] the personal computer LAN business from early after its introduction in 1983 until the mid 1990s when Microsoft introduced Windows NT Advanced Server and Windows for Workgroups.

Of the competitors to NetWare, only Banyan Vines had comparable technical strengths, but Banyan never gained a secure base. Microsoft and 3Com worked together to create a simple network operating system which formed the base of 3Com's 3+Share, Microsoft's LAN Manager and IBM's LAN Server. None of these were particularly successful.

In this same timeframe, Unix computer workstations from vendors such as Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics, Intergraph, NeXT and Apollo were using TCP/IP based networking. Although this market segment is now much reduced, the technologies developed in this area continue to be influential on the Internet and in both Linux and Apple Mac OS X networking—and the TCP/IP protocol has now almost completely replaced IPX, AppleTalk, NBF and other protocols used by the early PC LANs.


Early LAN cabling had always been based on various grades of co-axial cable, but IBM's Token Ring used shielded twisted pair cabling of their own design, and in 1984 StarLAN showed the potential of simple Cat3 unshielded twisted pair—the same simple cable used for telephone systems. This led to the development of 10Base-T (and it's successors) and structured cabling which is still the basis of most LANs today.

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