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A Network Interface Card (NIC) is a computer hardware peripheral that allows connections to external computers near and far. Many NICs are PCI cards installed into slots in a motherboard, but onboard built-in NICs are becoming very common in most new motherboards today. 10/100 (10-base-T or 100-base-T) is the most common type of NIC available, but Gigabit (1000) is the next step up in speed, and becoming popular even in home PCs. Many homes now have more than one computer, and networking them together allows for sharing of files, sharing an internet connection, and playing networked computer games. Ethernet is the most common standard for Local Area Networks (LANs), allowing connections to a huge variety of other networked devices, replacing older technologies such as token-ring networking.
Many areas now have various options for broadband internet connections, as an alternative to using a modem for dialup internet access. Most broadband technologies use a standalone modem and/or a router that connects to an ethernet network on the LAN side of the connection, and to the Wide Area Network (WAN) on the other side, often through cable or phone lines for DSL.
Wireless networking is a relatively new, but very popular technology in comsumer PCs allowing computers to be connected without physical wires. The three most popular standards for connecting PCs together currently are all variants of the 802.11 standard, named 'A', 'B', and 'G'. 'G' and 'B' are related, with 'G' being newer and faster, and most often backwards-compatible with 'B'. 'A' is most often used in a corporate environment, being shorter ranged but with a higher clarity signal. There are other wireless technologies that exist, but they are most often for connecting to wide-area wireless networks that cover entire cities or states, and are specific to the company that is offering the service.
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