Basic, Single-Function Devices

In addition to the Internet connection that you'll need to purchase from an Internet Service Provider (ISP), you could obtain the additional required functionality by installing these single-function devices:


Broadband modem rear panel

Broadband Modems:
A - "Broadband Modem" - converts a DSL or Cable Internet signal from a telephone or TV cable to computer-compatible Ethernet. In its most basic sense, a Broadband Modem makes just ONE Internet address available for use by a single computer in your home or small office.






Basic Cisco RouterRouters: Routers are used to share a single Internet connection with multiple computers. The most basic, single-function "Router" has 2 separate Ethernet Interfaces on 2 separate network segments. It uses one of these 2 network segments to create a new, local, private LAN subnet that can be expanded to connect with several computers in your home or small office. It uses the other network segment to communicate with your ISP on a Wide Area Network (WAN) through a single IP address. It multiplexes all outbound Internet traffic from all of the local computers into that single ISP IP address so that your Internet Service Provider thinks you have only one computer sending data to the Internet, and when Internet traffic comes back in response to that outbound traffic, the router demultiplexes it and sends it back to the appropriate computer on the LAN subnet. You can learn a lot more about Routers from videos in the "Networking Fundamentals" section at AskMisterWizard.com. Pay particular attention to the two videos entitled "NAT Routers Part 1" and "NAT Routers Part 2".



Ethernet Switch Ethernet Switches: Ethernet Switches are used to expand a LAN subnet for use with additional PCs. The most common, basic, single-function Ethernet Switch has 5 or more Ethernet connectors, and each can be connected, via an Ethernet Cable, to a separate computer, or to additional Ethernet Switches for further expansion in - "daisy chain" - fashion.  All of the computers thus interconnected can then use Ethernet protocols to exchange information. If those computers also understand a higher-level networking protocol like IP, then their Ethernet messages can also contain distinct IP addresses and IP messages that a router can multiplex onto the Internet. Ethernet Switches are closely related to Ethernet Hubs, and both technologies can be used for the same purposes. You can learn a lot more about Ethernet Hubs and Switches from additional videos, using those titles, in our "Networking Fundamentals" section.

Wireless Access Point Wireless Access Points: A Wireless Access Point Receives Ethernet traffic from a LAN segment and broadcasts it over radio waves, where it can be picked up by computers equipped with Wireless Network Adapters.  A Wireless Access Point also receives radio messages from those PCs, converting them into Ethernet messages and applying them to the LAN segment. If those computers also understand a higher-level networking protocol like IP, then their Ethernet messages can also contain distinct IP addresses and IP messages that a router can multiplex onto the Internet. Thus a Wireless Access Point is very similar to an Ethernet Hub. You can see how we installed, configured, and used a Wireless Access Point by watching the video entitled "Adding a Wireless Access Point or 'Wireless Hub' to a wired Ethernet", which is available in our "Networking Fundamentals" section.

Wireless LAN Adapter with USB Interface Wireless Network Adapters: A Wireless Network Adapter contains WiFi compatible radio transmitters and receivers, and converts those radio signals to and from USB or PCI signals that are compatible with modern personal computers. Sometimes these adapters are called "NICs", where "NIC" stands for "Network Interface Card". Without some kind of Wireless Network Adapters, a computer can't use a wireless network. Most modern PCs come with Wireless Network adapters built-in. At the time of this writing in 2009, most of these built-in, preconfigured NICs are based on 802.11g technology, so if you want to use 802.11n you'll probably need to pay extra for an external device. Operating system compatibility can be an issue here, so be sure that the device you purchase clearly advertises support for your chosen operating system! You can see how we used a built-in Wireless Network Adapter in a McDonald's fast-food restaurant to access a WiFi Hotspot by watching the video entitled "McWireless: Wireless Internet Access at McDonalds", which is available in our "Networking Fundamentals" section.

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