A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that connects computers and devices in a limited geographical area such as home, school, computer laboratory or office building. The defining characteristics of LANs, in contrast to wide area networks (WANs), include their usually higher data-transfer rates, smaller geographic area, and lack of a need for leased telecommunication lines.
ARCNET, Token Ring and other technologies have been used in the past, but Ethernet over twisted pair cabling, and Wi-Fi are the two most common technologies currently in use.
As larger universities and research labs obtained more computers during the late 1960s, there was an increasing pressure to provide high-speed interconnections. A report in 1970 from the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory detailing the growth of their "Octopus" network gives a good indication of the situation.
Cambridge Ring was developed at Cambridge University in 1974 but was never developed into a successful commercial product.
Ethernet was developed at Xerox PARC in 1973–1975, and filed as U.S. Patent 4,063,220. In 1976, after the system was deployed at PARC, Metcalfe and Boggs published their seminal paper, "Ethernet: Distributed Packet-Switching For Local Computer Networks."
ARCNET was developed by Datapoint Corporation in 1976 and announced in 1977. It had the first commercial installation in December 1977 at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.
The development and proliferation of CP/M-based personal computers from the late 1970s and then DOS-based personal computers from 1981 meant that a single site began to have dozens or even hundreds of computers. The initial attraction of networking these was generally to share disk space and laser printers, which were both very expensive at the time. There was much enthusiasm for the concept and for several years, from about 1983 onward, computer industry pundits would regularly declare the coming year to be “the year of the LAN”.
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