The need of human beings to communicate gave rise to various forms of communication techniques. Networking is one of them. Today computers are being used to send information across the globe. A stand -alone computer, which is a very efficient and productive tool by itself, can be made more so by connecting it with other computers. Networking now plays a major role in computing applications.

Why Networks Exist

During the 80's, the concept of desktop computers working independently was very popular. This was, and still is called the stand-alone environment.

Slowly, businessmen all over the world began to realize that information was useful only when it was communicated between human beings. The process of distributing and processing information among, individuals, each with an independent desktop computer being slow and prone to error, led to the concept of connecting computers together to form computer networks.

Computer Networks

A computer network is a communication system where a group of computers and other devices like printers are connected by cables and other hardware. The data is shared between the computers. A network, besides facilitating data communication, allows resources to be shared among all the systems connected to the network (refer Figure 1.3). Thus, users on the second floor of a building can use the printer on the eleventh floor if their computer and the printer are connected to the network. This concept of connected computers sharing resources is called networking.

Computers that are connected in a network can share:

  • Data
  • Messages
  • Printers
  • Hard Disks
  • CD-ROMs
  • Modems
  • Other hardware resources

Advantages of Networking

  • Networks allow efficient management of resources. For example, multiple users can share a single high-quality printer, rather than having multiple, possibly lower quality printers on individual desktops.

  • Networks help keep information reliable and up-to-date. A well managed, centralized data storage system allows multiple users to access data from different locations.

  • Networks help speed up data sharing. Transferring files across a network is always faster than other, non-network means of sharing files.

  • Services like electronic-mail being offered by computer networks, allow much more efficient communication among individuals.

Types of Networks

Networks can be classified as follows:

  1. Local Area Network (LAN)
  2. Wide Area Network (WAN)
  3. Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

Local Area Network (LAN)

If a network is confined to a single location, typically one building or complex, it is called a Local Area Network (LAN). The maximum distance from one end of a network to another is usually limited by the signal strength or the network system's built-in time limit for sending and receiving messages through a physical connection, such as a cable.

Wide Area Network (WAN)

As the advantages of networking became known, business saw the need to expand the networks. LANs could not adequately support the network needs of a large business, with offices and operations spread over a wide area. This led to the development of Wide Area Networks.

When a network is spread over wide areas, such as across cities, states or countries, it is called a Wide Area Network (WAN). Communication on a WAN takes place via telephone lines, satellites or microwave links, rather than through a physical cable.

Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)

In between LAN and WAN is the Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). A MAN is a network that covers an entire city, but uses LAN technology. Cable television networks are examples of MANs distributing television signals. The MANs we are interested in, carry information in the form of computer signals from one computer to another.

List the components in a communication process.

Sender, Receiver and Medium.

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Communication is the transfer of information from one place to another. The process of communication essentially involves the following three components:

  • Sender - the component from where the information is transferred.
  • Receiver - the component to which the information is transferred.
  • Medium - the component through which the information is transferred.

In our day-to-day lives, we come across various forms of communication.

As observed in the examples shown in Figure 1.1, every form of communication involves a sender, a receiver, and a medium connecting them.

The form of communication that is becoming popular these days is communication between computers (refer Figure 1.2). In this form of communication, the sender and receiver are both computers and the medium through which the information is transferred may be electromagnetic waves, cables or other such physical media.