Computer networks surround us and have become an integral part of our daily lives. But what is a network? In the 2010 film TRON: Legacy, Jeff Bridges’ character explains to his son what he thinks information in a digital form looks like and asks the questions we are all thinking.
“I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways?”
While not as colorful as the world of Tron, these images depict the hidden world of a network pretty well. Data moves along a web of cables, like freeways, in clusters of data called packets.
A computer network is a group of interconnected nodes, or devices, that pass information between each other. The biggest example of a network is the internet. Yes, the World Wide Web is a huge network. The network of networks. Data flows through the internet by traveling between routers and servers all across the globe.
However, the internet is not easy to draw, so we will look at a much smaller, more manageable one.
The computer network above probably looks familiar to you, since it is most likely similar to your home network. In the diagram, each client device is connected to the network allowing for connectivity to do various tasks: wireless printing, file sharing, shopping on Amazon, checking email, and so on. Without the basic building blocks of a network, there would be no internet.
But what all goes into making a network? In this new series we are going to discover the devices and protocols that build a network.