Ethernet remains robust and continues to thrive even after five decades.

A detailed reflection on the landmark development of Ethernet by IEEE and how it changed the landscape of wireless communications forever.

It's hard to overstate the significance of Ethernet on our interconnected world. Brought to life in the laboratories of Xerox PARC back in 1973, Ethernet set the foundation for the way information is shared across networks. This present age of wireless communications owes a lot to this groundbreaking innovation.

Ethernet is a data link layer protocol in the TCP/IP stack, describing how networked devices can format data for transmission to other network devices on the same network segment, and how to transmit it. Although it was initially intended for LAN applications, Ethernet has evolved to accommodate both metropolitan and wider area network (WAN) links.

Apple loses patent case to rival, forced to stop selling latest smartwatches. Law applies to even the most powerful company.
Related Article

The original version of Ethernet only offered a meager throughput of 2.94 megabits per second, a far cry from today's multigigabit speeds. However, at the time, it represented a dramatic step forward. It became standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1983, another go-ahead moment for Ethernet.

Ethernet remains robust and continues to thrive even after five decades. ImageAlt

Meanwhile, Xerox PARC was teeming with brilliant physicists and engineers - the likes of Bob Metcalfe, David Boggs, Chuck Thacker, and Butler Lampson, to name a few. They hatched the plan of Ethernet and synchronized it with another emergent technology- the personal computer (PC). This synchronized development marked a key milestone.

The rise of the PC coincided perfectly with the emergence of Ethernet. This allowed PCs to connect to one another and to larger workstations and servers, facilitating networked communications. The impact was substantial that Ethernet came to define the way local area networks (LANs) were structured.

Ethernet offered an ingenious solution for managing data traffic, known as carrier-sense multiple access with collision detection (CSMA/CD). When a device had data to send, it would check to see whether the network was free. If it were, the device would transmit its data. This management helped to overcome potential bottlenecks in the network.

Despite wide usage, Ethernet was not without its critics. The biggest of whom was IBM. They developed Token Ring, a competing technology. Unlike Ethernet, Token Ring passed a 'token' between machines to manage data transmission. However, Ethernet’s simplicity and cost-effectiveness eventually won out.

Another key milestone in Ethernet's journey was the 10BASE-T standard. Introduced in the early 1990s, 10BASE-T provided a peak data rate of 10 Mbps. This standard allowed Ethernet to utilize twisted pair telephone wire for both data and voice, expanding its reach substantially in office environments.

Biggest RAM upgrade in 25 years won't deter Apple, Intel, and AMD from embedding memory straight into the CPU.
Related Article

The internet boom in the mid-1990s increased network demands exponentially. In response, Ethernet needed to evolve, and it did just that. 100BASE-T (Fast Ethernet) was launched to accommodate these demands, offering a tenfold increase in data rate over its predecessor.

The start of the new millennium marked the advent of Gigabit Ethernet, providing data rates as high as 1 Gbps. This development was timely, ensuring that Ethernet retained its relevance and stayed ahead of the growing demand for high-speed network interfaces.

But it didn't stop there. 10 Gigabit Ethernet soon followed, becoming the standard for backbone networks within enterprise environments. At the same time, advancements in fiber optic technology improved Ethernet’s capabilities even further.

In parallel with these advancements, Ethernet over power lines gained momentum. This allowed data communications to leverage existing electrical lines, significantly simplifying network installations and reducing costs.

Ethernet’s role in wireless networking cannot be ignored either. The popularity of Wi-Fi saw a different kind of Ethernet emerge. With the aid of wireless access points, Ethernet's reach extended beyond cabled connections, plugging into the wireless realm.

Through its existence, Ethernet has been and continues to evolve, ensuring its perpetual relevance. The most recent iteration, known as Terabit Ethernet, promises unparalleled data rates reaching into the terabits. This development, again, places Ethernet at the forefront of high-speed data transmission.

Indeed, Ethernet has underpinned the data communications landscape for almost five decades now. Its simplicity, scalability, and ability to evolve continually, make it a vital component in the realm of networking and communications.

It would be unfair to disregard the role of the IEEE in this whole journey. As the body responsible for standardizing Ethernet, IEEE's offerings in terms of consistent improvements, scalability, and updated versions have dually ensured Ethernet's long-term success.

Today Ethernet enjoys near ubiquity in networking environments. Whether it is PCs, data centers, internet backbones, or residential Internet services – Ethernet's tune can be heard everywhere. Its influence is such that it would be hard to imagine a world without Ethernet.

One could argue that this world as we know it might not exist without Ethernet. The reality is, Ethernet has been a robust backbone to the world's internet infrastructure. It has implicitly shaped the way we live, learn, and work, connecting people, countries, and continents.

As we stand on the brink of a yet another revolution – The Internet of Things – it is Ethernet that we look to, to provide the robust, scalable, and reliable network infrastructure required to make this dream a reality.

Categories