Last revision July 28, 2004
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Networks provide communications between computers. They require first, compatible hardware, and secondly, compatible software. By analogy to the telephone system, for two households to communicate, they both must use telephone receivers that operate on the same electrical principles, connected to the same cabling system (hardware); and they both must use the same language when speaking (software).
People often get confused about computer networking, particularly between dissimilar computers (for example, Macintosh versus Windows PCs), because they fail to distinguish between the various hardware and software compatibility issues. We can think of several levels of compatibility. In fact, the International Standards Organization has codified these into a seven layer conceptual model called the Open Systems Interconnect (ISO/OSI) network model