Attached Resource Computer network, better known as ARCnet, has long been the third choice local area network (LAN). Originally a LAN tied to Datapoint Corporation computers, ARCnet languished at many corporations in the shadow of Ethernet and token ring networks, which were less exclusively linked with a single vendor. Pushing it further from the limelight were its proprietary protocols and small computer origins. ARCnet was first delivered in 1978, prior to Ethernet and token ring and prior to international LAN standardization efforts involving the other two networks.
More recently, ARCnet has been adapted to support networks of personal computers, largely through the efforts of third-party developers, who have ported the PC network interface NetBIOS to ARCnet. NetBIOS enables ARCnet to support Novell, Inc.'s NetWare and other PC LAN operating systems to permit access to other systems. Unlike Ethernet, ARCnet has never made it to mid-range and mainframe computers. Its small network address space prohibited ports of high-level protocols such as AppleTalk, DECnet amd the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), all of which Ethernet runs.
Now, after years of concentrating on its proprietary computers, San Antonio-based Datapoint hopes to transform ARCnet into a strong rival to Ethernet and token ring LANs. Where once Datapoint's interest in ARCnet sales were confined to its own customer base, the company now plans to enhance ARCnet to rival Ethernet and token ring in speed and multivendor support. The company is promising that its new ARCnet-plus will run at 20 megabits per second, faster than either Ethernet or token ring. The price for ARCnet adapters is as little as $200, as compared with as much as $1,000 for other LANs. The low price has resulted in the sale of one million ARCnet adapters in 1989, bringing the total installed base to more than 2.5 million. Datapoint also is at work to get ARCnet running on machines other than PCs and its own minis. ARCnet specifications have been submitted to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in an effort to obtain an ANSI standard designation for ARCnet.
Potential purchasers should be cautioned that Datapoint Corporation is up for sale after losing over $13 million (on sales of $60 million) in the third quarter of 1989.