Local Area Network (LAN) Examples: The 3 Networks to Know

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

Local Area Network (LAN) Examples: The 3 Networks to Know<br />

Local Area Network (LAN) Examples

A LAN is much like a bustling airport. Multiple flights arrive and depart, carrying people and their luggage (information) to various destinations (devices) within a defined area. Each piece of luggage has a tag (IP address), helping it find the right destination. This is what a Local Area Network does – it facilitates the seamless transport of digital data within a defined area.

Summary

A Local Area Network (LAN) is a computer network confined to a small area such as a home, office, or school, enabling quick and secure data sharing among interconnected devices.

Example 1: Ethernet (1973). Developed by Xerox PARC in the early 1970s, Ethernet is a significant example of LAN technology. Ethernet uses wired connections, typically coaxial cables initially and later twisted pair and fiber optic links, to connect devices on the same network. It became a standard model for LANs and is still in use today.

Example 2: Token Ring (1984). Developed by IBM, the Token Ring LAN system was a network technology where devices are connected in a ring format. It passed a ‘token’ around the ring, and only the device possessing the token could send data, thus reducing collisions and increasing efficiency. Though now outdated, it was a key development in LAN technology.

Example 3: Wi-Fi (1997). Introduced by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), Wi-Fi is a wireless LAN technology that allows devices to connect to the internet within a certain radius. The introduction of Wi-Fi revolutionized the concept of LAN, making connections more accessible and flexible. Its iterations, including Wi-Fi 6 continue to expand wireless LAN capabilities.

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Local Area Network (LAN) Examples In-Depth

Ethernet (1973)

Just like the Model T was the foundation of modern cars, Ethernet can be thought of as the granddaddy of Local Area Networks (LANs). Let’s go back in time to 1973, when a handful of tech wizards at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) were about to change the world.

Picture the 70s. People are jamming to the Bee Gees, mini-skirts are in vogue, and “The Godfather” is a box office hit. Meanwhile, in the world of tech, a revolution is quietly brewing at Xerox PARC. In a world where computers were as large as rooms and data transmission speeds were slower than a snail’s pace, Ethernet was an idea that would light up the tech world like a disco ball.

The term “Ethernet” might sound very techy and intimidating, but let’s break it down in simple terms. The name “Ethernet” is inspired by the ancient term “ether” – an invisible medium that was once believed to fill the universe and enable the spread of light. Pretty cool, huh? The idea was that Ethernet would do something similar, but instead of light, it would be spreading data!

Ethernet’s innovation was to connect multiple computers to a single, thick, coaxial cable, allowing data to be zipped back and forth. Think of it as a digital highway where information was the vehicle traveling at unprecedented speed from one computer to another. It was an ‘open’ technology, meaning that it was not locked down to a specific type of computer or device. This was an innovation that allowed for more flexible and cost-effective networks.

Ethernet marked the beginning of the “connected” era, giving birth to LANs as we know them. It set the stage for all the computer networking technologies that we use and rely on today. Just as the Bee Gees laid the groundwork for modern pop music, Ethernet did the same for modern networking.

Of course, Ethernet technology has evolved significantly since its creation. Initially, it utilized large and inflexible coaxial cables, but over time it transitioned to the much more versatile twisted pair and fiber optic links.

While Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies might be the stars of the show today, remember that they all have their roots in Ethernet. The next time you’re streaming your favorite show, gaming online, or just browsing the web, give a little nod to Ethernet, the great granddaddy of LAN technology, that made it all possible!

Keep in mind that Ethernet is still alive and kicking, powering most wired connections around the globe. It has grown and adapted over the decades, just like we have, meeting the demands of an ever-evolving digital world.

In the grand story of digital evolution, Ethernet is a hero that might not wear a cape, but it certainly helped connect the world. With its role in creating the internet infrastructure, Ethernet truly marked the start of a remarkable journey through the LANscape.

Token Ring (1984)

Imagine playing a game of “pass the parcel.” There’s only one parcel, and it’s passed around from person to person, with only the one holding the parcel allowed to unwrap a layer. Now replace the parcel with a digital ‘token,’ and the people with computers. Congratulations, you’ve got the essence of the Token Ring technology!

The year was 1984. Computers were slowly becoming a household item, and technology was beginning to embrace the concept of home and office networking. Enter IBM with a new system that promised to make Local Area Networks (LANs) more efficient – the Token Ring.

But first, let’s unravel what Token Ring is all about. In essence, the Token Ring was a form of LAN technology where computers were connected in a circular format. In this setup, a digital ‘token’ was passed from one computer to another. Much like the game of pass the parcel, only the computer holding the token could send data. By taking turns and preventing everyone from speaking (or sending data) at once, Token Ring significantly reduced data collisions and improved network efficiency.

Let’s compare it to a roundtable meeting. Only the person holding the “talking stick” can speak. This arrangement ensures that everyone gets their turn and that voices don’t overlap, leading to a more efficient discussion. Token Ring worked in a similar manner, creating an orderly system for data transmission.

So, why is Token Ring an important milestone in the LAN journey? It showcased an alternative method to Ethernet, demonstrating that there were different ways to manage and streamline data traffic. Although Ethernet was highly efficient, it could still lead to “collisions” when two devices tried to send data at the same time. Token Ring, with its orderly token-passing method, ensured that collisions were virtually eliminated, thus paving the way for other collision-free LAN technologies.

While Token Ring was a significant development, it’s worth noting that it’s now an outdated technology, replaced by more modern and efficient systems. However, it played a crucial role in expanding our understanding of what LANs could be. In the grand scheme of networking, Token Ring may seem like a one-hit-wonder from the 80s, but its impact echoed throughout the tech world, influencing subsequent LAN designs and technologies.

Just as we remember 1984 for classics like “The Terminator” or “Ghostbusters,” the realm of technology cherishes it for the introduction of the Token Ring – a ring that, for a time, ruled the LAN world. Even though Token Ring technology is largely obsolete today, its contribution to the history of LAN is as enduring as the classics of the 80s. So let’s give it up for Token Ring, the method that showed us a new way to think about data traffic and computer networking!

Wi-Fi (1997)

Picture a world where you could move freely with your device, without being tethered by wires, and remain connected to the internet. Sounds like a dream, right? This dream became a reality with the invention of Wi-Fi.

It’s 1997. The world is dancing to the tune of “Barbie Girl,” laughing at “Men in Black,” and exploring the depths of the ocean in “Titanic.” Meanwhile, the tech world was about to be rocked by a new invention that would change the way we interact with the digital universe: Wi-Fi.

“Wi-Fi” might sound like a funky term, but it’s simply a trademarked brand name for the wireless LAN technology introduced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). So, what is Wi-Fi? In the simplest terms, it’s like an invisible magical rope that connects your device to the internet without the need for physical wires. It transformed the Local Area Network (LAN) landscape by unshackling devices from the constraints of wires, making internet access more flexible and mobile.

Let’s visualize it. Remember when you flew a kite as a kid? The kite could only go as far as the string let it. Now, imagine if your kite could fly freely without any strings holding it back. That’s what Wi-Fi did for devices – it set them free to roam around while staying connected to the network.

Wi-Fi’s introduction revolutionized the world of networking. Gone were the days of tangled wires and the struggle of staying within the reach of Ethernet cables. Wi-Fi introduced a sense of freedom and mobility that was previously unimaginable. It’s like the leap we made when we moved from wired telephones to mobile phones. It allowed us to take our devices from the living room to the kitchen, or from the office desk to the meeting room, without losing our connection to the digital world.

Wi-Fi has continuously evolved since its introduction, with each iteration making the technology faster, more secure, and more reliable. For example, Wi-Fi 6, can handle more devices, provide faster speeds, and even help with battery life.

Wi-Fi turned the concept of networking on its head, giving us a taste of what a wireless future could look like. It’s been the bedrock of numerous technological advancements, enabling everything from wireless printers to the streaming services we love. Wi-Fi, in a way, is like the magic carpet from Aladdin, allowing us to explore a “whole new world” of possibilities.

It’s hard to imagine a world without Wi-Fi today. It has become so integral to our daily lives that being asked for the Wi-Fi password is almost as common as being asked for your name. As we continue to explore this digital universe, Wi-Fi remains our trusty spaceship, guiding us through the vast expanse of the internet. So, here’s to Wi-Fi – the wireless wonder that revolutionized LAN and our daily lives!

Conclusion

From the early days of Ethernet to the advent of Wi-Fi, the evolution of Local Area Networks (LANs) has been a thrilling journey. Much like a symphony, each technology has added its unique note, creating a harmonious blend that continues to evolve. These innovations have undeniably transformed the way we interact with the digital world, proving that technology, much like time, waits for no one. While Ethernet, Token Ring, and Wi-Fi have each had their moment in the spotlight, they all share a common thread – a relentless pursuit of efficiency and accessibility. As we continue to navigate this interconnected world, these technological milestones serve as a testament to human ingenuity and our relentless pursuit of progress.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is the main difference between Ethernet, Token Ring, and Wi-Fi?

Ethernet, Token Ring, and Wi-Fi are all types of Local Area Networks (LANs), but they differ in how they transmit data and their physical setup. Ethernet, developed by Xerox PARC in the early 1970s, uses wired connections to link devices in a network, allowing data to flow freely. Token Ring, introduced by IBM in 1984, used a token-passing method in a ring setup to prevent data collisions. Wi-Fi, introduced by IEEE in 1997, revolutionized LANs by making the connection wireless, allowing for greater mobility and flexibility.

Why is Wi-Fi more popular than Ethernet or Token Ring for home use?

Wi-Fi provides the convenience of wireless connectivity, which allows devices to connect to the internet without the need for physical wires. This freedom to move around within the range of the Wi-Fi signal makes it ideal for home use, where flexibility and convenience are key. Ethernet, while offering stable and high-speed connections, requires a wired setup, and Token Ring, though efficient, is now outdated and replaced by newer technologies.

How have LAN technologies evolved since Wi-Fi?

Since the introduction of Wi-Fi, LAN technologies have continued to evolve to offer faster speeds, more reliable connections, and better security. Subsequent versions of Wi-Fi, such as Wi-Fi 6, offer increased data rates, capacity, performance in crowded areas, and improved power efficiency. Apart from Wi-Fi advancements, we’ve also seen the emergence of technologies like Li-Fi, which uses light to provide wireless internet access. The journey of LAN is still ongoing, with new advancements on the horizon.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.