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The Continuing History of Ethernet Technology

October 28, 2013

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Ethernet, a system invented by engineer and Brooklyn native, Robert Metcalfe. A pioneer in his field, Metcalfe changed the way people worked and communicated. Before modern-day Wi-Fi and Bluetooth even existed, many people relied on an Ethernet connection. 

Developed by Xerox PARC in the 1970s, Ethernet consisted of a physical connection between two or more computers to form a local area network. When connected through Ethernet, the machines were able to share information and communicate with one another quickly and efficiently. Ethernet became the dominant network technology by the end of the 1980s.

Ethernet was an inexpensive and adaptable way to interconnect several computers. It was a system that was eventually used to link entire schools or offices. While the first working prototype of Ethernet was only able to transmit data at 2.94 Mbps, it has evolved to reach speeds up to 100 Gbps. Today, Ethernet even has applications in the manufacturing world. A soda bottling machine, for example, relies on an Ethernet connection to a mainframe computer, which sends a signal to the machine to stop filling one bottle and move on to the next.

The primacy of Ethernet began to slip with the introduction of truly high-speed wireless communications, especially IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi technology. Yet it has maintained its relevancy in today’s fast-paced world of technology for several reasons. First, Ethernet is still one of the most reliable ways to transfer data between several machines. It’s hard to beat a direct physical connection when it comes to consistency. No matter how advanced a wireless system, there is always a risk that interference will stop the data from reaching its proper location on time. Second, Ethernet remains the fastest network connection, compared to almost any wireless system. Finally, a wired data transmission is more secure than wireless transmission, which makes Ethernet a good choice for sensitive or confidential data.

Recently, the IEEE standards association took its first steps towards creating a 400 Gbps Ethernet standard. As the number of connected devices rises, Ethernet continues to develop to meet faster and faster standards of speed.

When it comes to connecting to the Internet or utilizing Ethernet connections, you can find Keystone products such as USB Plugs & SocketsIEEE1394 "Firewire" Plugs & Sockets, Computer PC Card BracketsCable Clamps, and LED Spacers & Lens Caps inside the many products that you use every day in an office, home or school environment.