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It’s hard to imagine a personal computer these days that doesn’t have some form of networking. You could liken it to an isolated island deep in the Pacific somewhere, like the Bikini Atoll. The thing is, we NEED communication to survive in this world. Networking options are somewhat limited right now for the PC.
Most computers in the 90’s had modems. Short for modulator-demodulator, the modem was a device that sent information through the phone line. Unfortunately this resulted in many busy signals around the world unless people bothered to get another phone line. The theoretical limit of a phone line is still 56kbps. That’s just a trickle compared to what modern networking options provide. Today, a modem isn’t all that useful. While there are still many dial-up providers offering cheap Internet access, there’s no reason to do that if you can afford cable or DSL. The only reason I can see a modem being useful is if you need to receive faxes in your home but don’t own a fax machine. Many motherboard manufacturers now offer modems on-board, meaning you don’t have to go out and buy an add-on card. These on-board modems can be disabled if you don’t need them.
Ethernet: The Road the High-Speed
The demand for faster connections to meet the requirements of increasingly complex online information spawned the many cable Internet and DSL providers around the country. While the two methods of high-speed connectivity are vastly different, their performance is ultimately similar.
Both cable and DSL require an Ethernet card. Ethernet is the name for the traditional 100 MBps networking line used for local area networks. Speeds for both cable and DSL approach 300 kbps, or about 6 to 10 times faster than the average modem speed.
Again, most motherboard manufacturers include an Ethernet adapter on-board, so you won’t have to buy one.
The new wave of wireless network adapters made specifically for laptops have changed the way people use their portable PCs. Many cities, businesses, universities, and even fast-food chains like McDonalds, are starting to add wireless Internet access. While this is a great way to access the net on the go, be sure to research the right adapter. There are many competing standards for wireless networking right now, with 802.11b compliant devices being the favorite.