Last edited 07 Apr 2022


Ethernet is a standard for the technologies that make up a wired local area network (LAN). It was first developed in the 1970’s by Robert Metcalfe at Xerox and went on to be developed by Xerox, DEC, and Intel. It was standardised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) as IEEE 802.3 in 1983.

Ethernet was originally conceived as a way of enabling computers to communicate over a shared cable. Ethernet originally used coaxial cable, but now commonly uses twisted-pair copper cable such as CAT5 or fibre optic cable.

The simplest Ethernet connects a number of devices on a single cable. Streams of data that are transmitted between devices are divided into ‘frames’ with a source and destination address. If more than one device is transmitting at the same time, and frames ‘collide’ and are corrupted, then they are re-transmitted. More complex variations allow devices to run with much reduced corruption, and full duplex modes allow devices to communicate simultaneously without ‘collision’.

Ethernet is now the most widely used standard for local area networks (LAN). Local area networks are networks used to connect a number of devices together that are located within a relatively small area, typically within a single building. This is as opposed to wide area networks (WAN) which are used to connect devices on a dedicated line across a large distance, such as across a city.

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