Ethernet was initially invented as a way of connecting a printer to a computer but today is the name for the cable that allows most network devices to connect to each other. The name Ethernet can also refer to the communication protocol that is used by the cable that allows the devices to 'talk' to each other. Ethernet was created and designed by Bob Metcalfe while he was working at the Xerox research centre in 1973. Since then his creation has become almost the standard issue way to connect network devices and almost all computers and laptops have an inbuilt Ethernet port. The speed of Ethernet has also been improved since 1973 and we now have what is known as 'Fast Ethernet'. But what is Ethernet and how does it work?
A network allows computers to connect to each other and exchange information; in today's internet based society networks are hugely important. The internet itself is an example of a mammoth global network. There are two main types of network: a Local Area Network (or LAN) and a Wide Area Network (a WAN). A LAN is a network made up of a group of computers in close proximity. A WAN is a network that is made up of several major LANs and can cover vast distances - the internet is a WAN. Ethernet, then, is the connection that makes up a LAN. Ethernet can really only be used for LANs as over the long distances needed for a WAN the signal can break down. Ethernet is the basis for creating a LAN but also can be used to connect a computer or network to the internet.