Now, as the title of this article says, there are both “network” connectors and “telecom” connectors. The telecom part of the title hints at an important part of these connectors’ history. When connectors were first becoming standard on computers, many of them looked exactly like the jack used to plug a home phone into the wall. That’s because the earliest modems on personal computers were dial-up; they used telephone lines to tap into internet networks. By the late 1990s, most personal desktop computers and many laptops came with a dial-up modem pre-installed. To take advantage of these, users had to plug into them a standard phone cord, and then plug the cord into phone jack in the wall. So at that time, the most prevalent network connectors (especially among home computer users) were telephone jacks and telephone wires. That is one variety of network connector that most people have used, or at least seen, at some point in their time using computers.
Of course, dial-up modems are by now mostly obsolete, and along with them, the jacks used to connect dial-up modems to telephone outlets have gone out of vogue. Instead, the overwhelming majority of computers now use one (or both) of two common network connectors: ethernet plugs, and wifi adapters. Wifi adapters are generally cards installed within desktop and laptop computers; they are not visible when inspecting the computer from the outside, but they serve the same purpose as a plug or socket outside the computer. The signals these cards send and receive form a “connection” with a wireless internet network, and by doing so, allow computers to communicate with other computers and servers hooked up to the network.
Along with wireless cards, most computers now come pre-installed with ethernet jacks. These allow high-speed modems (DSL and cable internet modems, for instance) to plug into computers via ethernet cables. Though cables of course limit a computer’s mobility, they are often preferred for the speedier connections they provide, and for their increased security as compared to wireless connectors. With a cable, there are no broadcast signals or floating bits of information that can be intercepted by third parties, although outsiders can sometimes “infiltrate” the network via the modem itself, and compromise the security of the connected computers that way.
Wifi and ethernet connectors are widespread and highly standardized, and most home users of the internet never connect using anything but these two adapters. However, there are other types of telecom and network connectors, some of which have gone obsolete, and some of which are only used by very specialized or proprietary technologies. Occasionally, some computer or machine that requires internet access will also require a unique network connector, and so unusual designs have been developed for those cases. However, it is almost impossible to find network connectors like that on the market, except in some technology stores aimed at the internet professional. Walk into the local Best Buy or Circuit City, and shoppers are likely to only find network connectors that adhere to wifi and ethernet standards. That’s how dominant those two forms of network connectors have become.