local area network (LAN), a computer network dedicated to sharing data among several single-user workstations or personal computers, each of which is called a node. A LAN can have from two to several hundred such nodes, each separated by distances of several feet to as much as a mile, and should be distinguished from connections among computers over public carriers, such as telephone circuits, that are used for other purposes. Because of the relatively small areas involved, the nodes in a LAN can be connected by special high-data-rate cables. A metropolitan area network (MAN) is defined as being restricted to a larger area (maximum distances of 50–60 miles) than a LAN but one still small enough so that dedicated links (such as microwave links) can be used. See also modem.
See W. Stallings, Local and Metropolitan Area Networks (1993); M. N. O. Sadiku, Metropolitan Area Networks (1995).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.