30 Years Ago: Networking in the 1980s Meant Ethernet vs. Token Ring
eWEEK 30: Forty years later, Ethernet is the ubiquitous networking technology, thanks to faster speeds and lower prices than Token Ring.The Ethernet networking technology was already 10 years old when PC Week was growing rapidly in the midst of the IBM PC boom. In May 2013 it celebrated its 40th birthday, and today it remains unchallenged as the dominant networking system in the world, connecting an estimated 90 percent of all devices, from PCs to servers to switches. A technology that co-inventors Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs developed at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) originally to connect their computers to printers, Ethernet has become ubiquitous throughout the $200 billion global networking industry. It’s difficult now to imagine a connected world that didn’t include Ethernet. However, that wasn’t always the case. In the 1980s—when consumers and businesses began using PCs in earnest—and into the 1990s, the field for LAN connectivity was wide open, setting up a clash of technologies between Ethernet—which had the backing of the likes of Digital Equipment Corp., 3Com (which was founded by Metcalfe), Intel and Xerox—and Token Ring, developed by IBM and with initial support from Cisco Systems and others.
Also in the mix for a relatively short amount of time was ARCnet, which had some similarities to Token Ring.