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Culture

Ode to Easy Networking

How Netgear came to be my choice for networking for many years.

There was a time when personal computers were islands. Data lived in its RAM, and was stored on the hard drive, or floppy disk, and that was all the world there was. Getting data from one personal computer to another involved walking (sneakernetting) or mailing a disk from one system to another.

In offices and schools, networks were installed so as to allow machines to talk to each other. Connections to outside facilities or to the internet allowed the efficient transfer of data.

However, none of this would be important to the home user for some time. Slowly, home internet access grew, houses with more than one computer increased from 'vanishingly rare', and computer games started supporting the ability to connect across a network for multi-player play.

The real choke point for the last was, of course, the availability of home networking equipment. Systems generally did not come with networking equipment, and a good network card generally ran over $100. Cheap cards were available, but were a pain to set up correctly.

Into this stepped Netgear and the FA310TX. It was a solid Fast Ethernet card with an affordable price tag. Unlike many of the other cheaper cards of the time, it had good features, solid drivers and plug and play support that eliminated the need for jumpers, or special software to set its I/O options directly.

For the bulk of its life, the FA310TX was about $20, and I bought and used several in various systems over the course of about a decade, until networking ports were commonly built into motherboards. In fact, I resisted getting motherboards with LAN ports built-in for some time as I trusted the FA310TX more than I trusted the new options on motherboards.