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The OSI Physical Layer

The Physical layer (OSI layer 1) deals with the mechanical and electrical specifications of the network hardware. Layer 1 specifications define connectors, pin-outs, signal voltages, and related software.

Network Interface Card

The most common Physical layer component is the Network Interface Card (NIC). To install a NIC you need to assign computer resources such as an IRQ and I/O address. If the operating system and NIC are Plug-and-Play (PnP), these resources will be assigned automatically.


Each computer connects to the network utilizing a network interface card (NIC) that may be installed in an expansion slot inside the computer, or the NIC electronics may be integrated into the computers motherboard. Each NIC has a unique identifying number called a media access control (MAC) address. No two NICs ever have the same MAC address. The MAC address is 48 bits, allowing more than 281 trillion possible unique addresses.

Network interface card

Computer networks break the data transmitted over the network into small pieces called packets. Dividing a large document into small packets for transmission allows computers to share the network cable, rather than having one large transmission prevent other computers from using it. If an error occurs during transmission, only the damages packet needs to be retransmitted, rather than the entire large document.

IEEE 802.3 - Ethernet

In 1973 Xerox invented Ethernet to solve the problem of transferring data between computers. Digital Equipment and Intel collaborated with Xerox in 1973 to publish the DIX networking standard. In the early 1980s Xerox turned over control of the Standard to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE sets up committees to define industry standards. The IEEE 802 committee sets the standards for networking. The IEEE subcommittee 802.3 sets the standard for Ethernet.

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