Home > Articles > Information Technology

Computer Networks -- Anatomy of a Classic

  • Print
  • + Share This
Andrew S. Tanenbaum, author of Computer Networks, talks about his classic book and what he sees as the most significant developments in networking today.
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

In the rapidly changing landscape of computer networking, there is one title which practitioners and students alike have relied on for over 20 years as a trusted source of timely information: Computer Networks by Andrew Tanenbaum. The Fourth Edition of this classic was published last fall and is currently on our bestseller list.

To mark this occasion, we thought it appropriate to contact both the author and some of Computer Networks' readers to examine the state of the field and the reasons why this book continues to attract so many loyal fans.

The First Edition of Computer Networks was published in 1980. When asked what was the most significant change he has seen in networking since that time, Andy Tanenbaum replied, "That would have to be the growth of the Internet.

"When the First Edition was published in 1980, the ARPANET, precursor to the Internet, was used by a few universities - it had an 8-bit host number, which allowed a potential of 256 hosts (the actual number then was far less). Back then, no one would have envisioned this being used by a billion persons in 20 years." Tanenbaum also remarked that no one would have predicted that e-mail would have become the killer application - although file transfer technology was there from the beginning. "Today, the daily volume of e-mail is ten times that of snail mail. And twenty years from now, snail mail will likely be used only for niche purposes" observed the author who is Professor of Computer Science at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, where he heads the Computer Systems Group. Finally Tanenbaum added: "And then there is the web; people searching for information today are more likely to go Google than a brick and mortars library."

What makes Computer Networks as accessible and timely today as it was back in 1980?

Tanenbaum admits that to him the craft of writing is important : "I try to make my explanations concise and easy to understand. I also believe its important to engage the reader." And readers concur. Professor Gertrude Levine from Fairleigh Dickinson University states:"My students find the book very readable." Professor Thomas Robertazzi of SUNY Stony Brook adds: "Tanenbaum is hard to top in making complex concepts accessible."

In addition to style, it's the coverage of topics and approach which readers find appealing in Computer Networks. According to Cisco's Thomas Nadeau "Tanenbaum's book provides the reader/student with a well-rounded survey of network technology available in few other texts." Nadeau adds: "Many newer texts, for example, start with IP and go from there. It is nice to know about TDM and multiplexing, for example, as a basis for the rest of the technology." The readers of Computer Networks appreciate the fact that this author does not follow trendy approaches such as that of focusing on the application layer to the exclusion of the other layers. Professor Levine comments: "that is not what I feel should be the purpose of this course (a core requirement for our undergraduates). The bottom layers of networks contain material that has not changed in twenty years- students have emailed me to tell me that what they learned in this class is still useful to their work." Professor Michail Schitiu of North Carolina State University adds that Computer Networks "strikes the right balance between general concepts and real protocols, and for this reason I look forward to using this book for many years to come." Ajay Kshemkalyani of the University of Illinois at Chicago also selected the Fourth Edition because of its approach and because it offers students clear explanations of networking concepts.

Computer Networks is also used in training courses for practitioners. Tanenbaum observes, "Networking is a far more rapidly changing field than other areas such as programming languages. Not all professionals have the time to follow every new development in this field. Since many professionals first learned about networking from my book and liked it, they continue to buy new editions in order remain current." In fact, Computer Networks is used in programs aimed at students/practitioners with varied backgrounds ranging from the Harvard University Extension School to Virginia-based Catalyst Consulting. Catalyst's Sheridan Krammer comments that his students are professionals with a cross-section of backgrounds and experience, and that its quite a challenge to find one book which he can use with these students and which keeps up with the changes in networking technology that matter.

When asked about the major changes in the new edition, Tanenbaum states:

"The Fourth Edition has a lot of emphasis on wireless technologies and standards such as 802.11, Bluetooth, broadband wireless, and ad-hoc networks. " Catalyst's Krammer emphasizes that one of the reasons for selecting the new edition of Computer Networks for his training program was the coverage of wireless technologies. In addition to coverage of wireless, Tanenbaum quickly adds that "there is also coverage of gigabit Ethernet, peer-to-peer networks and MPLS. And I added lots of new material on applications including the Web, Internet radio and VoIP. Lastly, there is a new chapter on security with an emphasis on cryptography and transmission." And in fact, academics and practitioners alike report that it's the breadth of coverage of new networking topics which keep them returning to Computer Networks.

In concluding this article we thought it would be instructive to ask Andy Tanenbaum to comment on what he sees as the most significant developments in networking today.

Tanenbaum observes, " I would have to say that developments in wireless networking and ubiquitous computing are quite significant and are having a major impact on how we communicate and work. People are carrying around multiple devices with computing power - lap tops, PDAs, smart cards, cell phones etc. And many of these devices can talk to each other." Of special interest to Tanenbaum are RFID – Radio Frequency Identification – chips which are being tested in the US and which will likely replace bar codes. According to Tanenbaum, "These chips communicate with computers when polled by radio and will allow for the efficient tracking of products through the distribution system right to the customer.

In the near future, shoppers will forgo the checkout counter and be billed automatically via RFID networking." And perhaps when the Fifth Edition of Computer Networks is published, readers will be billed for the book via RFID technology!

About the Author

Andrew S. Tanenbaum has a B.S. Degree from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently a Professor of Computer Science at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where he heads the Computer Systems Group. He is also Dean of the Advanced School for Computing and Imaging, an interuniversity graduate school doing research on advanced parallel, distributed, and imaging systems. The author of five books, Prof. Tanenbaum is a Fellow of the ACM, a Fellow of the IEEE, a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, winner of the 1994 ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award, and winner of the 1997 ACM/SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education. He is also listed in Who's Who in the World. His home page on the World Wide Web can be found at http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020