The Benefits and Limitations of an Ethernet Connection
Ethernet is the most widely used network technology in the world. It is defined as a family of networking technologies for local area networks. In simplest terms, Ethernet allows for communication between devices on a network through a single cable. Ethernet is local area technology (LAN), where networks are connected via an Ethernet connection or cable in close proximity. The communication between devices occurs in frames, which are chunks of information or data that have been divided and vary in size. Ethernet protocols govern rules for constructing the frames that are sent, and these rules include minimum and maximum lengths and required information contained within the frames. One specific protocol, for example, is that each frame must include a source address and a destination address (to identify the sender and the recipient).
In 1973, the Ethernet network was first designed and tested by researcher Bob Metcalfe. Metcalfe developed the technology at Xerox, the physical method of cabling and even the standards that governed communication within the cable, while researching how to connect a computer to a printer. In 1979, Intel and Xerox worked together in promoting Ethernet as the new standard for computing. By the end of the 1980s, Ethernet became the dominant networking technology. Since then, Ethernet has evolved to be used in non-computer environments, such as interconnecting home appliances and even personal devices, but the mechanics of the Ethernet today still stem from Metcalfe's original design.
There are several limitations of Ethernet, the primary concern being that it is restricted to local area networks. Historically, cables were limited to a few hundred feet long. Even with today's Ethernet technology, the maximum connection for an Ethernet cable is limited to a few kilometers. This is due to the signals that travel along the cables; Ethernet signals weaken as they travel through the cables and outside interference can even scramble a signal. Another limitation is the number of devices that can be connected to a single network; only one device can transmit at a time through the Ethernet. A number of devices have been developed to counter these limitations, including repeaters (devices that repeat an incoming signal onto other segments connected to the repeaters), bridges (devices to connect two or more network segments to regulate traffic), and switches (devices that dedicate and link network segments or network devices).