Welcome to the Networking Section. Networking is a pretty vast topic, and discussions of networking typically contain acronyms like LAN, WAN, TCP/IP, FDDI, and various confusing terms like switch, bridge, router, hub, protocol, packet and frame. I hope, by the time you've finished reading this section, that you will have a reasonable understanding of the topic, and that the terms just listed will make perfect sense.

Network: Defined

First thing's first. What is a network. Well, this is my definition:

A network is a set of nodes - e.g. computers and peripherals - connected together by a common medium (such as a cable).

A network

What is the purpose of such a network? Well, it allows computers to share common resources including hardware (such as printers) and software. It allows communication to take place, and allows central management of resources.

A network permits nodes to communicate with one-another. How is this achieved? Well, data exchange between computers happens in a similar fashion to data exchange within a computer. I.e. at it's lowest level, data is merely a sequence of bits. To transmit these bits, they are encoded into energy signals that can be carried across the transmission medium. For example, to carry data across a copper wire in a wired network, the data is converted into electrical pulses. To carry data across a wireless network, the data is converted into radio waves.

We'll go into all this in more detail later. For now, let's crack on with looking at different types of transmission media.