The term actually has many different meanings depending on the person, company, or context in which it is being used. Basically, it is a collection of two or more computers and associated devices that are linked together with communications equipment. Once connected, each part of the network can share the software, hardware, and information contained in the other parts.

The most common types of network are LANs (Local Area Networks, in which the computers share the same office space, room, or building) and WANs (Wide Area Networks, in which LANs are connected at different geographic locations by telephone lines or radio waves, as in wireless communications). Network connections are established by twisted-pair cable, coaxial cable, fiber-optic cable, connectors, or NICs (network interface cards). Network computing depends on protocols that work with a variety of operating systems and network hardware (see: IEEE and ISO). When you hear someone talking about "sharing network resources," they are referring either to client/server networks or peer-to-peer networks.

Also, you may hear Internet companies refer to their "network of Web sites," a group of associated sites that's analogous to a television network or cable TV network. If you have a small business that uses a network for Internet access and file sharing, be sure to have a firewall installed, to protect yourself from unauthorized access.

Historical perspective: Since the company's inception in 1982 in Palo Alto, California, the singular vision--"The Network Is The Computer"--propelled Sun Microsystems to its position as a leading provider of industrial-strength hardware, software, and services. Cofounder and CEO Scott McNealy, along with Chief Scientist Bill Joy, ran this popular company, which is known by many as simply "Sun." The company developed chips, boards, desktop systems, network connectivity, network storage solutions, servers, peripherals, and more, as well as a wide range of software solutions, including Web development tools, e-commerce solutions, operating environments and platforms, peer-to-peer network software, storage, and systems management tools.

James Gosling developed Java, an object-oriented language that resolved several of the World Wide Web's programming and functionality problems. Gosling, regarded by some as "the world's greatest living programmer," originally designed Java for use in interactive TV. Believing the interactive TV market to be a dead end, Sun decided to use this technology on the Web. Java programs allow animation to appear in Web browsers, background music to play, and text to scroll across the screen in real time, just to name a few things.

On January 7, 2010 Oracle aquired Sun common stock for $9.50 per share in cash. The transaction was valued at approximately $7.4 billion, or $5.6 billion net of Sun's cash and debt.

See also : Ethernet  MAN  wireless network  
NetLingo Classification: Net Technology