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A local area network (LAN) is a computer network within a small geographical area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, office building or group of buildings.
A LAN is composed of inter-connected workstations and personal computers which are each capable of accessing and sharing data and devices, such as printers, scanners and data storage devices, anywhere on the LAN. LANs are characterized by higher communication and data transfer rates and the lack of any need for leased communication lines.
In the 1960s, large colleges and universities had the first local area networks (LAN). In the mid-1970s, Ethernet was developed by Xerox PARC (Xerox Palo Alto Research Center) and deployed in 1976. Chase Manhattan Bank in New York had the first commercial use of a LAN in December 1977. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was common to have dozens or hundreds of individual computers located in the same site. Many users and administrators were attracted to the concept of multiple computers sharing expensive disk space and laser printers.
From the mid-1980s to through the 1990s, Novell's Netware dominated the LAN software market. Over time, competitors such as Microsoft released comparable products to the point where nowadays, local networking is considered base functionality for any operating system.