The term "network technology" refers to any technology that in some way facilitates the implementation of a computer network. We make the distinction here between data networks, which are primarily intended for the purposes of storing, manipulating and sharing data within a single organisation, and telecommunications networks, which are traditionally used for voice communication and data transfer over long distances. We should probably acknowledge, however, that the line between the two is becoming more and more blurred.
The ultimate example of this convergence is of course the Internet - a global network of networks that is now used by most of us on a daily basis - not just for formal communication and the sharing of data, but for a virtually unlimited number of other activities ranging from online shopping and banking to social networking and online dating. This vast network of networks extends across continents, beneath the World’s oceans, and even into outer space. At the time of writing (April 2023), the amount of data traversing the Internet on a daily basis is estimated to be well over one trillion megabytes!
In these pages we will be looking at some of the technologies - both hardware and software - that have been developed for the purposes of moving data from one place to another. Some of these technologies are still in use, some have been superseded by more cost effective, efficient and reliable technologies. Many of the articles here deal with obsolete network technologies that were at one time ubiquitous. We make no apologies for this, however. An understanding of outdated technologies can often provide insights that can be useful, if only to prevent us from repeating past mistakes.
Older technologies, even if no longer used, often provide the foundation for more modern technologies, and can be seen as milestones on the road to finding better solutions. One of the most important factors driving the development of network technology in the past has been the need to make the most efficient use of limited resources. Thanks to the phenomenal progress made in the field of microelectronics and fibre optic technology, we are no longer faced with the same limitations in terms of memory, processing power, or network bandwidth. However, in striving to overcome such limitations in the past, we have gained valuable knowledge that can be applied to the development of modern networking systems.