History of Ethernet, Part II: Need for Speed

In the previous blog post, we discussed the birth of the network Ethernet cable. Back then, there were no arguments over Cat5 cables versus Cat5e cables, and certainly no Cat6 cables bulking out from every corner of every office in America. When we left off, Ethernet was just entering the public sphere, where it would quickly receive a warm welcome in the rapidly evolving computer world of the 1980s.

Let’s Make a Deal

After setting out on his own, Ethernet-inventor Bob Metcalfe persuaded three computing heavy hitters — Digital Equipment Corporation, Intel, and Xerox — to join forces in developing a local area network standard using Ethernet technology. The result was the DIX Ethernet Standard of 1980, which ran at a then-impressive 10 Mbits/second.

The New CAT in Town

Ethernet wasn’t the only LAN system in existence, however. At first, there was steady competition between the DIX Standard and other systems that utilized either a Token Ring or Token Bus topology; ultimately, Ethernet was favored because of its ability to operate via Cat 3 cabling, which was cheaper and more widely available than other coaxial cables.
In 1983, the DIX Standard was officially sanctioned by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).


Since the late 1980s, Ethernet cables have been practically ubiquitous for computer connections. As technology evolved, so too did Ethernet supplements, providing for increased bandwidth, coaxial capabilities, and various physical media. With every new addition came new standards, including the modern-day Fast Ethernet standards we still use today.

It seems incredible that any ordinary consumer today can simply buy Cat6 cables bulk, when computers used to take up entire rooms and cost thousands of dollars to operate. It’s hard to imagine life without Ethernet now, especially in high-tech fields that depend on instant connectivity, like medicine. In fact, the West Health Institute estimates that hospitals can collectively save $30 billion every year by utilizing connected medical devices like vital sign monitors, smart pumps, and ventilators to their electronic health records.

No matter how many WiFi signals you might be picking up right now, Ethernet will always have a place in modern homes and offices by providing fast and secure computer connections. And the technology only continues to evolve. Will we live to see the Terabit Ethernet era? Only time will tell, but if the trend line is any indication, you can bet on it.

History of Ethernet, Part I: In the Beginning

Any high-speed tech buff likely has plenty of Cat6 cable bulk laying around — not to mention some older Cat5 cables and Cat5e Ethernet cables. These simple devices have given us the gift of connectivity for as long as many of us can remember.

But have you ever stopped to wonder how these network Ethernet cables came to be? In this two-part series, we outline the history of Ethernet, from its humble beginnings right through to that nest of tangled Cat6 cable bulk lurking behind your computer desk right now.

A Star(LAN) is Born

Ethernet’s official birthday is May 22, 1973, when electrical engineer Bob Metcalfe wrote a memo describing his idea for a local area network (LAN) that could allow multiple computer systems to communicate simultaneously. Like many of our beloved inventions, this one, too, was born in Silicon Valley, where Metcalfe was working for the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) to train military personnel in how to use ARPANET, a very early precursor to the world wide web.

Aloha PoE

Metcalfe’s ideas didn’t come out of thin air, however. His system was initially based on the Aloha Network, a radio communications system connecting multiple Hawaiian island channels at once. The Aloha Network’s great strength was that it allowed any station to send signals whenever it wanted; its great weakness was that if two signals were sent at once, it caused a “collision” where neither could get through. Metcalfe invented a way to detect and reroute collisions so that all systems could communicate effectively.

What’s in a Name?

By 1975, Xerox filed a patent on what Metcalfe had first named “Ethernet,” after successfully using it to connect its internal Alto network. The name is a nod to the “luminiferous ether,” a (debunked) theory from the 1800s about the transportation of light. By 1979, Metcalfe had left Xerox to form his own company, 3Com, and Xerox relinquished its brand rights over Ethernet, which allowed for its path to standardization.

One of the most amazing aspects of Ethernet is its lasting longevity in this fast-paced throwaway tech culture of ours (and by “longevity,” we’re not talking about a 500 ft Ethernet cable or the 1,000 to 2,000 insertions you can get out of a standard RJ45 plug). In the next section, we’ll trace the Ethernet of the 1990s and ’90s through its many rapid cycles of evolution to today’s high speed frequency capabilities.

Your Guide to Ethernet and Crossover Cables

If you have a business, you also have a computer network and a computer system that need cables. You have your USB cables, network Ethernet cables, high-speed HDMI cables and crossover cables. Many people are not always sure what each does and what the differences between these kinds of cable are. With so many cables to work with, knowing which one does what can be helpful.

What is “crossover cable”?

Most of the time, computers and other devices are not connected directly. They are usually linked through a computer hub. There are times when it is better to link the devices directly and when this is the case, the kind of cable that is used is called a crossover cable. Reasons people do this are to test one computer by comparing its performance to another computer or when two people are playing a video game and want a faster response time. Some people want to avoid using the computer hub and that is why they link devices directly with crossover cables.

What is a “straight through” cable?

These are the cables that are used when devices are connected through the computer hub. These are very common cables in homes and offices around the planet.

What is the best cable for my business?

There are a few kinds of network Ethernet cables. When you go to the computer supply store or look online, you will find the following options:

  • Cat5 cables: This is the oldest kind of Ethernet cable that is on the market today. It can still transmit voice and data at a performance of up to 100 MHz. These are the most common cables that are found in offices and homes around the world. While they are not the newest or the fastest cable on the market, they do work faster than many WiFI connections. One of the reason they are around and have lasted is that they are very durable. When you treat it right, it can last between five and ten years. If your office uses these cables, there is no need to rush out and switch them unless you are having some problems with the connections.
  • Cat6e cables: These are the next generation of the Cat5 Ethernet cables. They are faster and can transmit up to one gigabyte per second at 100MHz. The “e: was added to indicate enhanced capabilities of the cable to show that this basically an upgraded Cat5 Ethernet cable. For people and companies that want some extra power and speed but are not ready to make the jump or pay the money for a Cat6 Ethernet cable, the Cat5e cable may be just the ticket. Some people report less interference between wires located inside the cable.
  • Cat6 cables: These are faster and more efficient cables. They were designed and are built to handle up to 10 gigabits at about 150 MHz. Some people report that these are harder to install than Cat5 or Cat5e cables.
  • Cat7 cables: These are the fastest and newest kid cables on the block. It works at speeds up to 600 MHz. Some people say that these cables are more durable than the others. They are absolutely more expensive. * This is a European standard that is unlikely to be ratified in the US.

How to Keep Your Cables Safe and Secure:

There are a few things you can do to extend the life of all of your cables. Keeping them taped or tacked down can prevent people from tripping over it and protected so that nothing rolls over it to crush it or damage any of the internal wires.

If the cables under people’s desks and around the network hubs look more like nests of snakes, you can control the chaos by using zip ties to bundle the cables together. This will keep the mess to a minimum and make it Easter to cover and protect the cables running all over the place.

Proper labeling of the cables on either end will help a lot, too. For example, your router has a number of ports for different Ethernet cables. Label each for their destination and when you have problems you will have an easier time fixing them.

The cables that connect your computers, the network and your devices are important but having the latest is not always the most important thing. Having a working system is.

6 Tips to Keep Your Office Cable Clutter Under Control

Computer cables can easily become the bane of your office existence. Of course we need our computer systems and networks, but all the patch and crossover cables, power cords and everything else can turn into a snake’s nest under your desk. To fix that problem, we have some ways to deal with the mess, without sacrificing the connections you need.

It does not have to cost a ton to get the cable messes under control. Often, the supplies you use in your business may be all you need to tame the snakes and reduce the clutter.

Use binder clips to attach cable to your office furniture. Do you have cables that refuse to stay on your desk? You can keep all of the cables you want to stay on your desk firmly in place with binder clips from your local office supply store. Binder clips are inexpensive and come in a large selection of sizes. You can use these to clamp your Cat5e cables bulk, printer cables, power cords and any other USB cables or whatever to your office furniture.

Keep your cables together with zip ties. These are super inexpensive and easy to use. Keep all of your cables together and tidy with some properly placed zip ties. If you bought a bunch of Cat5e cables bulk, you can store what you are not using easily by coiling it and then keeping it together with your zip ties. If you need to run a few cables along the wall, floor or ceiling, you can make sure they stay together the same way.

Use old credit cards as cable organizers. You will need an expired credit card (or rewards card or even a library card), a singe hold punch and some scissors to make this do it yourself cable organizer. Create a space in the middle of the card with the single hole punch. Use your scissors to add an easy way to slide your cables through. If you are just inserting at the end of your Cat5e cables bulk, for instance, you may not need this but if you are approaching your cables somewhere else, you can add this to the card. This method can also be used to keep those cables on your desk. If your binder clips are not big enough for all of your cables, feed them into a card and use the binder clip to attach that to your desk.

Mount surge protectors to the wall or furniture with double stick tape. Mount surge protectors to the wall or furniture with double stick tape. You can use this to affix a number of items to walls or furniture. If you have a modem or router that likes to fall off its perch, you can keep it in one place with the tape. If you want to have your surge protector in a fixed location, the tape works well for that, too. Even if you want to just keep it from sliding around on your desk, a little double stick tape can go a long way in making it stay put.

Label everything. This may not keep your cables from becoming snakes when left alone, but it will make it a lot easier to fix things and replace the right cables when you need to. Label both ends of the cable. So many cables these days have the same end on both sides so this is really helpful when you are switching out cables. Label the end that is going into the device and the end that is going into the computer, the network or whatever it normally is attached to. If you have a hub for all of the cables you need, this makes a big difference. It will save you time and money.

Tack down your cabling. When you run cables all over, they can be stepped on, furniture can roll over them, etc. Tack down the cable so that no one trips over it and place a protective cover so nothing breaks it.

Messy cables are a problem for offices and businesses all over the world. These simple and cost effective tips can help reduce your clutter, and make your workspace tidier and less stressful!

iOS 10: What to Expect

Have you updated your iPhone to the new iOS 10 yet? Many are holding out for fear of the unknown, so we will go over some bullet points here of what to expect out of Apple’s newest update.

  • Photo Finder: If you are like me, and have thousands of photos saved on your phone, then locating one particular photo can be a nightmarish task. With the new update you have some great options for photo finding. The first is the new “people” photo folder, which helps locate pictures using facial recognition. If you need to find a picture based on location, date or surroundings, you know have Siri to come to the rescue. She will sift through your photos for you using the embedded date, location or nearby surroundings, saving you time and putting an end to your squinting.
  • Safari Tabs: With iOS 10 we will now be able to open endless amounts of Safari windows, without having to worry about that pesky 36-tab limit. This is great news for those of us who like to open a lot of tabs and keep them open to come back to look at later. Accessing your camera is now easier than ever too; just swipe right on your screen without having to unlock your phone.
  • Magnifying Glass: If you need a little extra help seeing small print, you can now use your iPhone to zoom in with just a few flicks of your finger. Access this under the “settings” tab, then select “general” and then select the “accessibility” tab. Here you will find the “magnifier” option. Once you have that installed, just click your home button three times to magnify your screen. It’s as easy as that.
  • Alarm Clock: There is a new feature titled “bedtime reminder,” that will allow you to enter the time you wake up every day, and how many hours of sleep you require per night. Your phone will now send you a reminder every evening letting you know that your bedtime is coming up. You can use this new feature to track your sleeping patterns too!
  • Music: Have you ever been jamming out to a song, only to have to cut it short for a photo op? That issue is a thing of the past with the new iOS 10 upgrade. You can now simultaneously take pictures and listen to music at the same time!
  • iMessage: You are now able to send stickers, doodles, GIFs, and sketches in text message form. Emoji’s got an overhaul as well. If you use a particular emoji three times or less in a row, they pop up twice as big as before.
  • Apple Maps: This app got a much-needed overhaul. Hardly anyone uses Apple Maps anymore, the performance issues were not worth it. Now it has an updated interface and a cleaner, easier to understand platform. The cherry on top is that Apple Maps will now remember where you parked!

What’s the Difference Between USB 3.1 and USB 3 Cables?

Take a look around your home and you’ll probably find a lot of electronic devices using some kind of Universal Serial Bus, or USB, cable. They’re practically everywhere – but remember that not all USB cables are created equally.

Take your smartphone, for instance. Every device has an average lifespan of about two years, and chances are, the last time you had to upgrade your phone you also had to upgrade your charger along with it. Or maybe you simply opted for better cell phone accessories. The standard iPhone 6 and 6 Plus come with 5-watt smartphone cables, but with a 12-watt USB power adapter you can power up the device in half the time — just 50 minutes for an iPhone 6 or 2.5 hours for the 6 Plus.

But lately, there have been more drastic changes made to the USB system itself. The USB 3.1 is the latest cable type, superseding the old USB 3 cables and, before that, the USB 2.0 device cable. What exactly is different here — and do you need to go about replacing every cable in your house? Not exactly. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between the USB 3 cables and the newer 3.1 version.

  • Speed: The USB 3 has a top speed 5Gbps in SuperSpeed mode. The 3.1 can get 10Gbps.
  • Power: USB 3 cables can deliver 5V, 1.8A of power, while the 3.1 can draw up to 2A at 5V or 5A at 12V or 20V.
  • Compatibility: The 3.1 is backwards compatible with the 3.0, and both the 3.1 and the 3.0 are backwards compatible with the 2.0. That means that unless you have the need for speed and more power, any type of cable will work just fine in any system.
  • Configuration: Perhaps the biggest change with the 3.1 are the Type-C plugs, which are actually unidirectional — no more flipping the cable over six times before it fits! The 3.0 is typically configured with Type-A to Type-B connectors.

If you’re the tech-hungry type always looking for a better connection, then the USB 3.1 is the way to go. For the average consumer, however, the 3.0 still works perfectly fine across most devices. Soon enough, a new improvement will come out, and we’ll all eventually make the upgrade — maybe with our next smartphone purchase.

iPhone 7 – The Official New Features

So Apple has confirmed many of the rumors that were floating around about the iPhone 7 release. Here are the highlights from Apple’s product expo in San Francisco, CA.

  • The Colors: Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Standard Black with the introduction of a brand new color, Jet Black.
  • Water Resistance: Yes, the new iPhone 7 will be waterproof. It will stand up to water drops and splashes, as well as a full submersion up to a half-hour.
  • Battery Life: The new iPhone offers two more hours of battery life than the iPhone 6s, the Plus will offer one more hour.
  • Price: Pricing will start at $649, the iPhone Plus starts at $769.
  • Headphone Jack: Apple indeed got rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. A 3.5mm adapter will be included in the box, as well as wireless earbuds, that are named “EarPods” which are the upgraded version of the pods included in the box. These can be purchased separately for $169.

When Should You Use a Surge Protector?

Contrary to what you might think, electricity doesn’t flow through our homes and networks at a steady, constant rate. On the contrary, it waxes and wanes depending on supply grids, power demands and other factors. Sometimes unexpected jolts of electricity — from lightning strikes, downed power lines, on/off cycles, or tripped circuit breakers for example — can result in electricity voltage surges. If that sudden increase of power transmits through your cell phone cables or computer lightning cables, it could result in serious damage to your electronic devices.

This is where surge protectors come in handy. You may be familiar with power strip surge protectors as a convenient way to plug in more devices to a single outlet, but their real purpose is to protect your electronics from those sudden bursts of electricity. So who needs surge protectors? Anyone running on AC current could certainly benefit, but some systems and setups require a bit more precaution than others. You should absolutely invest in a surge protector if you are:

A Gamer: With lots of connected devices and wiring, you want to make sure that your equipment keeps working the way it should. Quality Cat5 cables for Ethernet should last five to 10 years, so long as they’re well protected.

A Business Owner: A sudden power surge might accidentally wipe important information from your system if you’re not prepared. And while smartphones have an average lifespan of two years, they can get fried by a single electrical surge.

Running Medical Equipment: Needless to say, medical devices should be well-guarded against any sudden changes in voltage. You don’t want power to spike or to cut out suddenly. Integrated systems that connect vital sign monitors, smart pumps, and ventilators with electronic health records can save hospitals $30 billion a year, but that connectivity means it’s that much more important to ensure the safety of equipment with a surge protector.

No matter who you are or what you do, protection from electricity surges certainly won’t hurt your devices or appliances. In most cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry — but in some cases, it’s essential to protect yourself from surges as best you can.

Did You Know the Majority of Fiber Optic Cables are Actually Under the Ocean?

In the increasingly mobile and digital world we live in, things like USB cables and HDMI high-speed cables are becoming slightly less prominent, as many people anxiously anticipate the next batch of wireless cell phone accessories. As the mobile network operator news site RCRwireless recently pointed out, it’s important to keep in mind that all of these connections are made possible by the hundreds of thousands of feet of bulk fiber optic cables that circumvent the globe, many of which are under the ocean floor.

It’s this subsea network of bulk fiber optic cables that transmit approximately 90% of the world’s data through terabytes. To put in perspective just how big a terabyte is consider that ‘mega’ is a prefix denoting 1,000,000 (1 million). In data communications this term is used in describing the speed of data transfer in megabits per second, the bandwidth of a given system in megahertz. One terabyte is equal to one million megabytes.

Although many people think of fiber optics as a relatively new invention, bulk fiber optic cable submarine networks began being implemented as early as the late 1980s, according to a 2014 Submarine Telecoms Industry Report authored by Terabit Consulting. The direct result of a $57.2 billion investment into about 1.275 million kilometers of bulk fiber optic cable.

Unlike smartphones, which typically last about two years, and CAT5 cables, which usually last between five and 10, one of the biggest reasons for the success of the subsea fiber optic network lies in the cables longevity. “The major drivers of transatlantic cables’ longevity have been advancements in upgrade technology,” the Telecoms report states. “Which correspond precisely to the 6,500-kilometer range of transatlantic spans, combined with extremely competitive pricing of both transatlantic capacity and managed bandwidth products, both of which have thus far eliminated any incentive for operators and content providers to opt for building over buying.” As the technology continues to improve and more and more companies take an interest in the investment these kind of networks will only get better and more available.

iPhone 7 Predictions and Rumors

It’s that time of year again…time for a new iPhone release! As usual, there is much speculation about what new features may be included, but this time around Apple has kept its newest release top-secret so we are left in the dark with our imaginations. Now that the September 7th debut date for the iPhone 7 has finally been confirmed, we will go over some of the most popular speculations in the rumor mill regarding the iPhone 7 release.

Release Date: So far, September 12th is the projected date that the iPhone 7 is expected for release. This date will likely be confirmed by Apple on September 7th, unless they are planning on keeping the public guessing.

Waterproof: Will the iPhone 7 follow in Samsung’s S7 footsteps and be waterproof? This is a pretty cool feature that a few new phones are offering, it would be strange for Apple to not follow suit.

Curved Body: The rumor about a possible curved body type started circulating over the summer. Will the new iPhone have borrow some curves from the likes of LG’s G Flex and the Samsung Galaxy Round?

Home Button: There has been much ado about the new iPhone’s home button, or rumored lack-there-of. Word on the street is that there will no longer be a physical home button, but instead an optical screen home button. How this will affect a hard reset remains a mystery.

Headphone Jack: This is one of the hottest mysteries surrounding the iPhone 7 release. There have been numerous reports that the new iPhone 7 will be sans headphone jack. The how and why is still unclear. What about those folks who are limited to a 3.5mm jack in their car, as well as those who use their headphones at the gym? As of right now it doesn’t make sense. If this is truly the case, then Apple will likely come up with some type of adapter for an older 3.5mm cable connector. Will this spark the same type of outrage that the last connector change did? If an adapter is needed, will Apple include one in the box, or charge $30 like they did with the last 30-pin to Lightning adapter change? What kind of headphones will be included in the box? The rumor mill suggests they may be called “AirPods,” but it is unclear if they will be wired or wireless. There is also speculation that the new ear phones may have a special proprietary connection. Does that mean that only Apple ear pods will be compatible? So many questions regarding this mystery.

Wireless Charging: The Samsung S7 has wireless charging abilities built-in, so it’s only a matter of time before Apple gets on board. Will they include this feature in the new iPhone 7?

Colors: Will Apple stay with the space gray, silver, gold and rose gold options, or will they branch out to some brighter hues?

Size: There have been a few “leaks” that suggest Apple will stick with the regular iPhone and iPhone Plus models. There has been much speculation about a possible third option, although not much is known about it yet. Some case makers have created three different prototypes, are they onto something?

Storage: The iPhone 6s offers three different types of storage: 16GB, 64GB and 128GB. Many current iPhone users are hoping that they cut the 16GB option already, because really, it’s not enough storage space for anyone. Instead they can upgrade to a 32GB option to stay relevant with other options out there. Pricing will likely stay the same, unless Apple has more surprises up their sleeve.