How Ethernet Works

By: Nick Pidgeon

The Ethernet

In 1973, at Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center (more commonly known as PARC), researcher Bob Metcalfe designed and tested the first Ethernet network. While working on a way to link Xerox’s "Alto" computer to a printer, Metcalfe developed the physical method of cabling that connected devices on the Ethernet as well as the standards that governed communication on the cable. Ethernet has since become the most popular and most widely deployed network technology in the world. Many of the issues involved with Ethernet are common to many network technologies, and understanding how Ethernet addressed these issues can provide a foundation that will improve your understanding of networking in general.

The Ethernet standard has grown to encompass new technologies as computer networking has matured, but the mechanics of operation for every Ethernet network today stem from Metcalfe’s original design. The original Ethernet described communication over a single cable shared by all devices on the network. Once a device attached to this cable, it had the ability to communicate with any other attached device. This allows the network to expand to accommodate new devices without requiring any modification to those devices already on the network.