Check out the Top 5 IT Exes and see if any of these once-great network tools ever found a place in your heart.

Valentine’s Day can be a time for rekindling a forgotten romance, or reminiscing about the way things used to be – in IT. Over the years, there have been a handful of network tools that have made such an indelible impression that they can never be forgotten. Some were so popular that they were impossible to ignore. Others made us look cool and edgy simply by association, and some products were just really bizarre.

1. Dolch PAC


It was perhaps the best known, and certainly the most powerful portable network analysis device through the eighties and nineties. With a DOS-based sniffer in a solid Samsonite-like suitcase with a nine-inch green display and 256 MB buffer, what’s not to like? How about the weight.

“I threw out my shoulder lugging one of those so-called portable network analyzers,” says VIAVI Senior Sales Engineer, Bill Naylor. “With the advent of laptops and software sniffing programs, Dolch went out of fashion.”

2. IPX (Internetwork Packet Exchange)
Remember when Novell was the 800 pound gorilla of networking only a couple decades ago? In their quest to dominate IT, Novell released the IPX routing protocol with their NetWare network operating system. With the popularity of NetWare and a small memory footprint, IPX gained popularity. But geek hearts went cold by the late-nineties, what happened?

“Novell’s stealthy protocol proved to be too chatty, cumbersome, and not really scalable for large networks,” says Casey Louisiana, VIAVI, Director of Sales Engineering. “With the emergence of TCP/IP and the Internet, IPX became a distant memory. I see it every once in a while on printers.”

3. Tcpdump


Released originally in 1987, tcpdump is still one of the most widely known programs for capturing and analyzing packets in UNIX/Linux environments. If you came into networking in the early 2000’s, there’s a soft spot in your heart for tcpdump. What happened? GUIs. Ethereal which later evolved into Wireshark became the freeware analyzer of choice, with its three-pane decode and color-coded protocol listings.

4. ARCnet (Attached Resource Computer NETwork)
At about the same time that Back to the Future was cleaning up at the box office, ARCnet had a market share equal to that of Ethernet. The LAN communications protocol was less expensive and more reliable at this time.

As Naylor explains, “You could run a string between two cans and ARCnet would work. It was very robust and tolerant of faulty media.”

Eventually Ethernet moved from coaxial cable to twisted pair, and with easier cabling, greater speeds and cheaper price points, we know the rest of the story.

5. IBM Type 1 Cable Plan


In driving organizations to adopt token ring, Big Blue pushed out its specs and plan for Type 1 Cable with its infamous hermaphroditic connectors. Enterprise spent a fortune during the nineties connecting their token ring installations. What was to love? It was reliable engineering with heavy shielding keeping to minimize electrical noise and conservative specs that called for short cable runs. What turned IT off? It was bulky, heavy cabling at 4 times the cost of unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable for the same LAN signaling speed.

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