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The Invention of Ethernet and How it is Used Today

The Invention of Ethernet and How it is Used Today

A gentlemen by the name of Bob Metcalfe realized that he could improve on a system called the Aloha System which arbitrated access to a shared communications channel. He developed a new system that included a mechanism that detects when a collision occurs (collision detect). The system also includes "listen before talk," in which stations listen for activity (carrier sense) before transmitting, and supports access to a shared channel by multiple stations (multiple access). Put all these components together, and you can see why the Ethernet channel access protocol is called Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detect (CSMA/CD). Metcalfe also developed a much more sophisticated back off algorithm, which, in combination with the CSMA/CD protocol, allows the Ethernet system to function all the way up to 100 percent load. In late 1972, Metcalfe and his Xerox PARC colleagues developed the first experimental Ethernet system to interconnect the Xerox Alto. The Alto was a personal workstation with a graphical user interface, and experimental Ethernet was used to link Altos to one another, and to servers and laser printers. The signal clock for the experimental Ethernet interfaces was derived from the Alto's system clock, which resulted in a data transmission rate on the experimental Ethernet of 2.94 Mbps. Metcalfe's first experimental net was called the "Alto Aloha Network." In 1973 Metcalfe changed the name to "Ethernet," to make it clear that the system could support any computer, and not just Altos, and to point out that his new network mechanisms had evolved well beyond the Aloha system. He chose to base the name on the word "ether" as a way of describing an essential feature of the system: the physical medium (cable) carries bits to all stations, much the same way that the old "luminiferous ether" was once thought to propagate electromagnetic waves through space. Physicists Michelson and Morley disproved the existence of the ether in 1887, but Metcalfe decided that it was a good name for his new network system that carried signals to all computers. Thus, Ethernet was born.

The Ethernet System This is a brief tutorial on the Ethernet system. We'll begin with the origins of Ethernet and the Ethernet standards, and then describe the essential features of Ethernet operation. Ethernet is a local area network (LAN technology that transmits information between computers at speeds of 10 and 100...

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