Volume 2. No 3 Information Technology News of the University of California, Davis Spring 1994
The Evolution of the Network
by Catherine Curran, Planning, Strategy &
The past 30 years have witnessed changes in the
computing world that many of us never could have
imagined. And those changes are creating
opportunities for applications we have yet to
imagine. As computing has moved from a mainframe to
a distributed environment, individual users have
gained greater access to information and more
control over their workstations Here is a brief
look at changes in computing that have led to the
advent of Network 21.
Introduced in the 1950s, the first mainframes
were card punch machines used to tally data.
Widespread use of mainframes became popular in
1960s, and in 1964 the Davis Computer Center was
established on campus. Mainframes have tallied
literally millions of test scores completed by
school children using #2 pencils. Mainframes are
still used for powerful applications such as the
campus accounting program.
Introduced in the early 1980s, personal computers
took what was inside a mainframe and moved it to
the desktop. The IBM-XT came standard with a 10
megabyte hard disk when it landed on desktops in
1983. It was hailed as a godsend to wordprocessors
(then typists) and data entry operators.
Information was easily updated and portable when
stored on a floppy disk.
Seven years later, the XT was replaced by the
486, which has the power, speed and memory to
process graphics, video and sound. PCs with even
more power are entering the market today, and the
more powerful computers will create opportunities
for more sophisticated software applications. The
two standard PC platforms are DOS and Macintosh.
Consumer demand for computers has driven prices
down, and today's powerful PCs often sell for half
the price of their ancestors - the XT and 286.
Users quickly recognized the need to share
information and transfer data from machine to
machine The modem addressed this need by enabling
users to send files from one machine to another
through telephone lines. Modems, used in conjuction
with communication software, were (and still are)
enlisted to send information near and far. Now,
modems frequently serve as a network link by those
wishing to gain access to information. For example,
a user can dial into the campus modem pool managed
by Communications Resources and establish a link
with databases such as the MELVYL library system.
Remote users also call into the modem pool to log
into an e-mail program.
Like telephone users, modem users incur toll
charges when applicable. If you live in Davis and
dial into the campus modem pool, you will not incur
toll charges since it is a local call. However, if
you call the modem pool from Sacramento, San
Francisco, or long distance locations, you will
incur toll charges.
Local Area Networks (LANs)
Is it really efficient to transfer data from one
machine to another in order to print a file? Why
can't all computers in an office share the same
word processing program? As users became more
sophisticated, they began asking for simpler
solutions. And the LAN came to the rescue. Local
Area Networks make it easier for individual users
to share information and resources. For instance,
users linked by a network can e-mail without using
a modem. The central computer that runs programs
shared on the network became known as the server.
LAN managers were quickly faced with new issues
like user identification, system security, and
Distributed Computing Environment (Client Server
Why be restricted to the home base? If you can
share information locally, then why not share it
globally? Thats just whats happening today. We
now are part of an international network in which
every user is a client and every resource is a
server. Our PCs and the programs they store are
making us mobile. What we are able to explore
depends on the computer we are using -- the more
powerful the better. For those who want to travel
fast and frequently, good roads are vital. For UC
Davis, Network 21 is the thoroughfare that will
make the information highway accessible to all.