network, in computing, two or more computers connected for the purpose of routing, managing, and storing rapidly changing data. A local area network (LAN), which is restricted by distances of up to one mile, and a metropolitan area network (MAN), which is restricted to distances of up to 60 miles, connect personal computers and workstations (each called a node) over dedicated, private communications links. A wide area network (WAN) connects large numbers of nodes over long-distance communications links, such as common carrier telephone lines, over distances ranging from that between major metropolitan centers to that between continents. An internet is a connection between networks. The Internet is a WAN that connects thousands of disparate networks in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, providing global communication between nodes on government, educational, and industrial networks. Networks allow for resource sharing (e.g., multiple computers sharing one printer), data sharing, and communication or data exchange (e.g., electronic mail).

See W. Stallings, ed., Advances in Local and Metropolitan Area Networks (1994); F. Halsall, Data Communications, Computer Networks, and Open Systems (4th ed. 1996); R. Cahn, Wide Area Network Design: Concepts and Tools for Optimization (1998); T. Parnell and C. Null, Network Administrator's Reference (1999).

Type of parallel computation in which computing elements are modeled on the network of neurons that constitute animal nervous systems. This model, intended to simulate the way the brain processes information, enables the computer to “learn” to a certain degree. A neural network typically consists of a number of interconnected processors, or nodes. Each handles a designated sphere of knowledge, and has several inputs and one output to the network. Based on the inputs it gets, a node can “learn” about the relationships between sets of data, sometimes using the principles of fuzzy logic. For example, a backgammon program can store and grade results from moves in a game; in the next game, it can play a move based on its stored result and can regrade the stored result if the move is unsuccessful. Neural networks have been used in pattern recognition, speech analysis, oil exploration, weather prediction, and the modeling of thinking and consciousness.

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Two or more computers and peripheral equipment (e.g., printers) that are connected with one another for the purpose of exchanging data electronically. Two basic network types are local area networks (LANs) and wide-area networks. Wide-area networks connect computers and smaller networks to larger networks over greater geographical areas, including different continents. Communications may occur over cables, fibre optics, or satellites, but most computer users access the network with a modem, using telephone lines. The largest wide-area network is the Internet. In the 1990s the World Wide Web was introduced and became the most popular way to access other Internet sites.

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