Geek Trivia

Ethernet Superseded Which Network Technology?

Serial Cable
Token Ring
Fiber Optic
AppleTalk
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Answer: Token Ring

In the early 1980s, the Betamax versus VHS debate wasn’t the only hotly contested technology-centered showdown. Just as hotly debated, at least in the nerdier circles, were the merits of Ethernet versus Token Ring network technology.

Ethernet was a product of XEROX PARC’s research and development projects and Token Ring came straight from the labs of IBM. Network admins and geeks everywhere debated over which network technology was superior and deserved widespread adoption. Early implementations of Token Ring were, in fact, technologically superior to Ethernet—Token Ring systems supported larger packet sizes and utilized available network bandwidth more efficiently.

Over time, however, Ethernet emerged as the dominant cabling system and protocol. While Token Ring had superior specs and could have potentially grown to be the dominant system, it was ultimately killed by market pressures, poor decisions by IBM (they were, for example, very slow to release faster versions of Token Ring), and more rapid adoption of Ethernet in corporate environments. DEC, Intel, and Xerox, on the other hand, worked together to improve Ethernet technology with a focus on getting the increasingly adopted networking standard out into the field.

Meanwhile, IBM kept a tight grip on Token Ring and, because of patent laws, they had to charge stiff royalties to cover their costs and pay patent holders. As a result, a simple Token Ring network card could easily cost many times more than an Ethernet network card. It wasn’t economically feasible for most companies to adopt Token Ring technology and low adoption rates eventually drove Token Ring out of the market.

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