How does a networking book sell 200,000 copies without telling you how to fix a broken network, or get a networking job, or earn a networking certification, or even how to avoid losing money on your telecom investments? By doing one thing better than anyone else: explaining how networks work, in plain English, so anyone can understand -- no matter how little technical background they have.
How Networks Work, Sixth Edition does precisely that. Of course, as good as the prose is, that’s only the beginning. This book brings network to life with stunning full-color, oversize 3-D graphics -- all completely revamped and updated for this edition.
If you’ve seen any of the other How It Works series books recently, you’re familiar with the attractive, incredibly lucid style of illustration this book now utilizes. You also realize just how powerful the illustrations are when it comes to understanding how complex devices (like networks) fit together.
We think this book ought to be in every school and every library. And if you’ve ever wondered how email gets from Timbuktu to you, or how the Internet keeps track of all those web addresses, or how your DSL line actually works, it ought to be in your library, too.
The authors are longtime PC Magazine networking editors Les Freed and Frank Derfler. (If you don’t read PC Magazine, you may still know them from their classic Get a Grip on Network Cabling, first published in 1993 but still used by instructors and professionals worldwide.)
Freed and Derfler begin in a time and place far, far away. You may, frankly, be surprised at where they start. We were, until we thought about it. To explain how networks communicate one bit of data at a time across vast distances, why not start with the first and simplest device ever to do that?
So Freed and Derfler start with Samuel Morse sitting at his desk in the Supreme Court chamber of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., sending his famous “What hath God wrought” telegraph message up to Baltimore -- and launching Western Union, the world’s first telecommunications behemoth. “By itself,” Freed and Derfler note, “the telegraph can express only two states: on or off.” Sounds awfully digital to us.
Starting from these humble beginnings (and a discussion of Alexander Graham Bell’s equally primitive telephone), Freed and Derfler are able to simplify the fundamental principles of signaling and information packaging that apply in virtually all networks. And once that’s squared away, they can then illuminate everything from telephones and modems to Gigabit Ethernet, protocols to mainframe terminals, network servers to e-business and Internet infrastructure.
If you think you might work with network hardware someday -- or even if you just need to understand the house nerd -- you’ll appreciate how this book completely demystifies network interface cards, cabling, server-based and peer-to-peer LANs, routers, and switches. (This edition even adds a full chapter on IP, the Internet protocol.)
Speaking of wider connections, Freed and Derfler make sense of “metropolitan area networks”, circuit-switched networks like ISDN; and packet switched networks like frame relay -- and, best of all, today’s exciting broadband technologies, cable modems and DSL.
There’s even a full chapter on computer-telephony integration, covering everything from small-business PC-based systems that offer souped-up voice mail to industrial-strength outbound call centers designed to telemarket you into submission.
The book concludes with two entirely new sections: one on the networking technologies behind e-commerce, and another on “Intertainment.” Here, Freed and Derfler preview the finally-arriving convergence between networks and TV (TiVo, next-generation digital set-top boxes, and similar goodies).
If you’re going to live in a digital age, you ought to understand this stuff -- and with How Networks Work, Sixth Edition, you will. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.