Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 21/5/2004A note from friend PeterI says "It's the end of 10BASE2 Ethernet!" For our younger listeners who may be unaware that networking once involved wires at all, I should point out that in the beginning, PC networking came in two flavours -- thick and thin.

Friday 21/5/2004
A note from friend PeterI says "It's the end of 10BASE2 Ethernet!" For our younger listeners who may be unaware that networking once involved wires at all, I should point out that in the beginning, PC networking came in two flavours -- thick and thin. Thick Ethernet had great fat cables, usually yellow, linking the card to a special socket on the wall; thin Ethernet, aka 10BASE2, used ordinary coax cable to string cards together in a daisy chain. It worked - slowly, the best you could get was 10 megabits a second - until there was a break in the chain somewhere. Then everything stopped working and there was a lot of scrabbling about beneath the desks -- well, any excuse.

10BASET put paid to that, using cheaper telephone-style cables that weren't daisy-chained and had the potential to go a lot faster. In the manner of such things, the old coax cards continued to be made -- in ever decreasing quantities -- until now.

This is sad, for a few reasons. First, I worked on a 10BASE2 product way back when the world was young, and this is evidence that neither it nor I can be so described these days. Second, the coax and connectors used are the same as found as standard in ham radio equipment, so I was assured of a constant supply of handy test leads and adaptors. But most importantly, the end of the thin Ethernet card means the end of a much underappreciated art form -- the T Piece Sculpture.

Because each card had to be part of a daisy chain, it came with a coax adaptor that let you plug two cables into its solitary socket. These could easily be daisy-chained themselves into small geometric clusters of metal, and with application and a reasonably free office equipment budget these could be grown until they covered quite a large area of desk. And then upwards and outwards: some of the creations could easily qualify for the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square.

You just can't do that with 10BASET connectors, and there are serious philosophical problems involved with 802.11 connector art. A small piece of art history slides into oblivion: at least it won't die completely unrecorded.