Introduction to communication and computer network
Today computer is available in many offices and homes and therefore there is a need to share data and programs among various computers with the advancement of data communication facilities. The communication between computers has increased and it thus it has extended the power of computer beyond the computer room. Now a user sitting at one place can communicate computers of any remote sites through communication channel. The aim of this chapter is to introduce you the various aspects of computer network.
After going through this lesson you will be in a position to:
- explain the concept of data communication
- understand the use of computer network
- identify different components of computer network
- identify different types of network
- explain communication protocols
- understand what is internet and email and its uses in modern communication
- appreciate the use of satellite communication.
We all are acquainted with some sorts of communication in our day to day life. For communication of information and messages we use telephone and postal communication systems. Similarly data and information from one computer system can be transmitted to other systems across geographical areas. Thus data transmission is the movement of information using some standard methods. These methods include electrical signals carried along a conductor, optical signals along an optical fibers and electromagnetic areas.
Suppose a manager has to write several letters to various clients. First he has to use his PC and Word Processing package to prepare his letter. If the PC is connected to all the client’s PCs through networking, he can send the letters to all the clients within minutes. Thus irrespective of geographical areas, if PCs are connected through communication channel, the data and information, computer files and any other program can be transmitted to other computer systems within seconds. The modern form of communication like e-mail and Internet is possible only because of computer networking.
Basic elements of a communication system
The following are the basic requirements for working of a communication system.
- A sender (source) which creates the message to be transmitted.
- A medium that carries the message.
- A receiver(sink) which receives the message.
In data communication four basic terms are frequently used. They are:
- Data: A collection of facts in raw forms that become information after processing.
- Signals: Electric or electromagnetic encoding of data.
- Signaling: Propagation of signals across a communication medium.
- Transmission: Communication of data achieved by the processing of signals.
You may be wondering how do the computers send and receive data across communication links. The answer is data communication software. It is this software that enables us to communicate with other systems. The data communication software instructs computer systems and devices as to how exactly data is to be transferred from one place to another. The procedure of data transformation in the form of software is commonly called protocol.
The data transmission software or protocols perform the following functions for the efficient and error free transmission of data.
Data sequencing: A long message to be transmitted is broken into smaller packets of fixed size for error free data transmission.
Data routing: It is the process of finding the most efficient route between source and destination before sending the data.
Flow control: All machines are not equally efficient in terms of speed. Hence the flow control regulates the process of sending data between fast sender and slow receiver.
Error control: Error detecting and recovering is the one of the main function of communication software. It ensures that data are transmitted without any error.
Data transmission modes
There are three ways for transmitting data from one point to another
1. Simplex: In simplex mode the communication can take place in one direction. The receiver receives the signal from the transmitting device. In this mode the flow of information is Uni.-directional. Hence it is rarely used for data communication.
2. Half-duplex: In half-duplex mode the communication channel is used in both directions, but only in one direction at a time. Thus a half-duplex line can alternately send and receive data.
3. Full-duplex: In full duplex the communication channel is used in both directions at the same time. Use of full-duplex line improves the efficiency as the line turn-around time required in half-duplex arrangement is eliminated. Example of this mode of transmission is the telephone line.
Digital and analog transmission
Data is transmitted from one point to another point by means of electrical signals that may be in digital and analog form. So one should know the fundamental difference between analog and digital signals. In analog signal the transmission power varies over a continuous range with respect to sound, light and radio waves. On the other hand a digital signal may assume only discrete set of values within a given range. Examples are computer and computer related equipment. Analog signal is measured in Volts and its frequency in Hertz (Hz). A digital signal is a sequence of voltage represented in binary form. When digital data are to be sent over an analog form the digital signal must be converted to analog form. So the technique by which a digital signal is converted to analog form is known as modulation. And the reverse process, that is the conversion of analog signal to its digital form, is known as demodulation. The device, which converts digital signal into analog, and the reverse, is known as modem.
Asynchronous and synchronous transmission
Data transmission through a medium can be either asynchronous or synchronous. In asynchronous transmission data is transmitted character by character as you go on typing on a keyboard. Hence there is irregular gaps between characters. However, it is cheaper to implement, as you do not have to save the data before sending. On the other hand, in the synchronous mode, the saved data is transmitted block by block. Each block can contain many characters. Synchronous transmission is well suited for remote communication between a computer and related devices like card reader and printers.
Following are the major communication devices used to day.
Wire pairs: Wire pairs are commonly used in local telephone communication and for short distance digital data communication. They are usually made up of copper and the pair of wires is twisted together. Data transmission speed is normally 9600 bits per second in a distance of 100 meter.
Coaxial cables: Coaxial cable is groups of specially wrapped and insulted wires that are able to transfer data at higher rate. They consist of a central copper wire surrounded by an insulation over which copper mesh is placed. They are used for long distance telephone lines and local area network for their noise immunity and faster data transfer.
Microwave: Microwave system uses very high frequency radio signals to transmit data through space. The transmitter and receiver of a microwave system should be in line-of-sight because the radio signal cannot bend. With microwave very long distance transmission is not possible. In order to overcome the problem of line of sight and power amplification of weak signal, repeaters are used at intervals of 25 to 30 kilometers between the transmitting and receiving end.
Communication satellite: The problem of line-sight and repeaters are overcome by using satellites which are the most widely used data transmission media in modern days. A communication satellite is a microwave relay station placed in outer space. INSAT-1B is such a satellite that can be accessible from anywhere in India. In satellite communication, microwave signal is transmitted from a transmitter on earth to the satellite at space. The satellite amplifies the weak signal and transmits it back to the receiver. The main advantage of satellite communication is that it is a single microwave relay station visible from any point of a very large area. In microwave the data transmission rate is 16 giga bits per second. They are mostly used to link big metropolitan cities.
In-text questions 1
1. What is communication protocol?
2. What is the difference between asynchronous and synchronous transmission?
3. State whether True or False
- The basic requirements for working of a communication system are sender medium and receiver.
- Electric or Electromagnetic encoding of data is called Transmission.
- In full duplex the communication channel is used in both directions at the same time.
- Analog signal is measured in Volts and its frequency in Hertz
- The technique by which a digital signal is converted to analog form is known as modulation.
A computer network is an interconnection of various computer systems located at different places. In computer network two or more computers are linked together with a medium and data communication devices for the purpose of communicating data and sharing resources. The computer that provides resources to other computers on a net
work is known as server. In the network the individual computers, which access shared network resources, are known as workstations or nodes.
Computer Networks may be classified on the basis of geographical area in two broad categories.
- Local area network (LAN)
- Wide area network (WAN)
Local area network
Networks used to interconnect computers in a single room, rooms within a building or buildings on one site are called Local Area Network (LAN). LAN transmits data with a speed of several megabits per second (106 bits per second). The transmission medium is normally coaxial cables.
LAN links computers, i.e., software and hardware, in the same area for the purpose of sharing information. Usually LAN links computers within a limited geographical area because they must be connected by a cable, which is quite expensive. People working in LAN get more capabilities in data processing, work processing and other information exchange compared to stand-alone computers. Because of this information exchange most of the business and government organizations are using LAN.
Major characteristics of LAN
- Every computer has the potential to communicate with any other computers of the network
- High degree of interconnection between computers
- Easy physical connection of computers in a network
- Inexpensive medium of data transmission
- High data transmission rate
- The reliability of network is high because the failure of one computer in the network does not effect the functioning for other computers.
- Addition of new computer to network is easy.
- High rate of data transmission is possible.
- Peripheral devices like magnetic disk and printer can be shared by other computers.
- If the communication line fails, the entire network system breaks down.
Use of LAN
Followings are the major areas where LAN is normally used
- File transfers and Access
- Word and text processing
- Electronic message handling
- Remote database access
- Personal computing
- Digital voice transmission and storage
Wide area network
The term Wide Area Network (WAN) is used to describe a computer network spanning a regional, national or global area. For example, for a large company the head quarters might be at Delhi and regional branches at Bombay, Madras, Bangalore and Calcutta. Here regional centers are connected to head quarters through WAN. The distance between computers connected to WAN is larger. Therefore the transmission medium used are normally telephone lines, microwaves and satellite links.
Characteristics of WAN
Followings are the major characteristics of WAN.
1. Communication facility: For a big company spanning over different parts of the country the employees can save long distance phone calls and it overcomes the time lag in overseas communications. Computer conferencing is another use of WAN where users communicate with each other through their computer system.
2. Remote data entry: Remote data entry is possible in WAN. It means sitting at any location you can enter data, update data and query other information of any computer attached to the WAN but located in other cities. For example, suppose you are sitting at Madras and want to see some data of a computer located at Delhi, you can do it through WAN.
3. Centralized information: In modern computerized environment you will find that big organizations go for centralized data storage. This means if the organization is spread over many cities, they keep their important business data in a single place. As the data are generated at different sites, WAN permits collection of this data from different sites and save at a single site.
Examples of WAN
1. Ethernet: Ethernet developed by Xerox Corporation is a famous example of WAN. This network uses coaxial cables for data transmission. Special integrated circuit chips called controllers are used to connect equipment to the cable.
2. Aparnet: The Aparnet is another example of WAN. It was developed at Advanced Research Projects Agency of U. S. Department. This Network connects more than 40 universities and institutions throughout USA and Europe.
Difference between LAN and WAN
- LAN is restricted to limited geographical area of few kilometers. But WAN covers great distance and operate nationwide or even worldwide.
- In LAN, the computer terminals and peripheral devices are connected with wires and coaxial cables. In WAN there is no physical connection. Communication is done through telephone lines and satellite links.
- Cost of data transmission in LAN is less because the transmission medium is owned by a single organization. In case of WAN the cost of data transmission is very high because the transmission medium used are hired, either telephone lines or satellite links.
- The speed of data transmission is much higher in LAN than in WAN. The transmission speed in LAN varies from 0.1 to 100 megabits per second. In case of WAN the speed ranges from 1800 to 9600 bits per second (bps).
- Few data transmission errors occur in LAN compared to WAN. It is because in LAN the distance covered is negligible.
The term topology in the context of communication network refers to the way the computers or workstations in the network are linked together. According to the physical arrangements of workstations and nature of work, there are three major types of network topology. They are star topology, bus topology and ring topology.
In star topology a number of workstations (or nodes) are directly linked to a central node (see, Fig. 4.3). Any communication between stations on a star LAN must pass through the central node. There is bi-directional communication between various nodes. The central node controls all the activities of the nodes. The advantages of the star topology are:
- It offers flexibility of adding or deleting of workstations from the network.
- Breakdown of one station does not affect any other device on the network.
The major disadvantage of star topology is that failure of the central node disables communication throughout the whole network.
In bus topology all workstations are connected to a single communication line called bus. In this type of network topology there is no central node as in star topology. Transmission from any station travels the length of the bus in both directions and can be received by all workstations. The advantage of the bus topology is that:
- It is quite easy to set up.
- If one station of the topology fails it does not affect the entire system.
The disadvantage of bus topology is that any break in the bus is difficult to identify.
In ring topology each station is attached nearby stations on a point to point basis so that the entire system is in the form of a ring. In this topology data is transmitted in one direction only. Thus the data packets circulate along the ring in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. The advantage of this topology is that any signal transmitted on the network passes through all the LAN stations. The disadvantage of ring network is that the breakdown of any one station on the ring can disable the entire system.
In-text questions 2
1. Differentiate between LAN and WAN.
2. What are the different types of network topology?
3. State True or False
- Networks used to interconnect computers in a single room, rooms within a building or buildings on one site are called Wide Area Network (WAN).
- The term Wide Area Network (WAN) is used to describe a computer network spanning a regional, national or global area.
- The speed of data transmission is much higher in WAN than in LAN.
- In star topology a number of workstations (or nodes) are directly linked to a central node.
- The advantage of the bus topology is that, If one station of the topology fails it does not affect the entire system.
The Internet is a network of networks. Millions of computers all over the world are connected through the Internet. Computer users on the Internet can contact one another anywhere in the world. If your computer is connected to the Internet, you can connect to millions of computers. You can gather information and distribute your data. It is very much similar to the telephone connection where you can talk with any person anywhere in the world.
In Internet a huge resource of information is accessible to people across the world. Information in every field starting from education, science, health, medicine, history, and geography to business, news, etc. can be retrieved through Internet. You can also download programs and software packages from anywhere in the world. Due to the tremendous information resources the Internet can provide, it is now indispensable to every organization.
Origin of internet
In 1969 Department of Defense (DOD) of USA started a network called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Administration Network) with one computer at California and three at Utah. Later on other universities and R & D institutions were allowed to connect to the Network. APARNET quickly grew to encompass the entire American continent and became a huge success. Every university in the country wanted to become a part of ARPANET. So the network was broken into two smaller parts MILNET for managing military sites and ARPANET (smaller) for managing non-military sites. Around 1980, NSFNET (National Science Foundation Network) was created. With the advancement of modern communication facilities, other computers were also allowed to be linked up with any computer of NSFNET. By 1990 many computers were looking up to NSFNET giving birth to internet.
How internet functions
Internet is not a governmental organization. The ultimate authority of the Internet is the Internet Society. This is a voluntary membership organization whose purpose is to promote global information exchange. Internet has more than one million computers attached to it.
E-mail stands for electronic mail. This is one of the most widely used features of Internet. Mails are regularly used today where with the help of postage stamp we can transfer mails anywhere in the world. With electronic mail the service is similar. But here data are transmitted through Internet and therefore within minutes the message reaches the destination may it be anywhere in the world. Therefore the mailing system is excessively fast and is being used widely for mail transfer.
In-text questions 3
- What is internet?
- What is e-mail?
- How does internet function?
What you have learnt
In this lesson we discussed the importance and modes of communication through computers. Computers can communicate with one another through computer networking. There are two types of computer network: LAN and WAN. We discussed about the physical arrangements of computer and peripherals in network topology. There are three types of network topology: star topology, bus topology and ring topology. Also we discussed about Internet and e-mail.
- What is computer Network? What are its main objectives?
- Differentiate between analog and digital transmission of data.
- Explain in brief different communication media.
- What is the difference between simplex and full-duplex transmission?
Feedback to in-text questions
In-text questions 1
1. The data communication software instructs computer systems and devices as to how exactly data is to be transferred from one place to another. The procedure of data transformation in the form of software is commonly called protocol.
2. In asynchronous transmission data is transmitted character by character as you go on typing on a keyboard. On the other hand, in the synchronous mode, the saved data is transmitted block by block.
In-text questions 2
1. LAN is restricted to limited geographical area whereas WAN covers great distance. In LAN the computer terminals and peripheral devices are connected with wires and coaxial cables whereas in WAN communication is done through telephone lines and satellite links. The speed of data transmission is much higher in LAN than in WAN.
2. There are three major types of network topology. They are star topology, bus topology and ring topology.
In-text questions 3
1. The Internet is a network of networks. Information in every field starting from education, science, health, medicine, history, and geography to business, news, etc. can be retrieved through Internet.
2. E-mail stands for electronic mail. Through e-mail we can transfer data anywhere in the world within seconds.
3. Internet is not a governmental organization. The ultimate authority of the Internet is the Internet Society. This is a voluntary membership organization whose purpose is to promote global information exchange.