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Chapter 2. Networking Basics > Network Uses - Pg. 15

Networking Basics 15 Just as almost all railroads now use the same gauge track for compatibility reasons, adherence to standards in computer networking is essential. Similarly, you can't use any old wire to connect computers, and if you mix wire types, you run into exactly the same situation that early railroads of different gauges experienced--workers had to transfer cargo from one train to another, which re- quired a special device like a crane and tended to slow down delivery time. Although you can choose from a variety of acceptable wire types, it's best to stick with one type. The same principle applies when you connect a wired network to a wireless network. Making the connection is like transferring containers from a railroad car to a cargo plane. The cargo containers remain the same, and their labels still say where they're headed, but you've traded the rigidly con- strained world of railroad tracks and stations for wide-open airways and airports. No matter how a cargo container travels, once it reaches its destination, workers remove and unpack its contents. Here the analogy breaks down a bit, since real-world cargo containers are huge and carry a lot of stuff, whereas network packets are broken-up portions of larger things, such as email messages, Web pages, or spreadsheet files. When network packets reach their destination and are unpacked, their contents must also be combined with the contents of other packets and reassembled into the original file, Web page, or email message. We could continue this analogy to the point of ridiculousness, comparing policies surrounding what happens when two trains headed in opposite directions meet on the same track to the way Ethernet networks handle packet collisions. But let's not go there; instead, for those of you who are still wrapping your heads around networks, let's look at what they're good for. Network Uses The fact that you're even reading this book means you have some idea of how you can use a