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20 years of LANs

Mar 30, 20062 mins

* LANs feature prominently in Network World retrospective

This week marks Network World’s 20th anniversary, and we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on 20 years of networking. The package of stories is pretty cool, and LANs of course feature prominently.

(More than other newsletter writers, you may have noticed that I tend to highlight stories and resources on I hope you will forgive me for that. It’s because of my day job as Network World’s site editor, through which I see all of what the site has to offer, and it’s hard not to point to some of that from time to time.)

One of the most fun parts of our retrospective is called “IT’s big flops,” which chronicles the technologies that could have been big – and got all sorts of hype – but flopped.

The obvious one – especially obvious from a LAN perspective – is the first one on our list: ATM. I remember thinking how elegant it seemed, a way to bring together voice, video and data and do it all through the LAN, MAN and WAN. Too bad it was so expensive and had such overhead. Ethernet wiped the floor with it.

Token Ring gets a double whammy – Kevin Tolly talks about IBM’s big networking flops over the years (including High Speed Token Ring), while Joel Snyder singles out Token Ring’s losing battle against Ethernet – and shows how, in retrospect, the argument for Token Ring really seemed silly.

Naturally, we look at networking’s triumphs, too. We have a conversation with Bill Yeager, inventor of the multiprotocol router. In our “20 people who changed the industry,” we look at Cisco’s founders, Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, spanning-tree creator Radia Perlman and others. Further, we look at 20 network changing products, a list that has fueled some lively debate, as you can imagine.

Plus, there is a humorous look at what $20 can buy you today and what it bought you 20 years ago. For example – you can get a 10/100Mbps network interface card for that today, while in 1986, as Adam Gaffin writes, “Digital sold the equivalent of an NIC for $500. Connecting Ethernet segments back then might run you $3,800 for a 5Mbps Ungermann-Bass repeater or $8,000 for a 10Mbps DEC LAN Bridge 100.”

The whole package is available here.