The NE2000 network card is a Novell Eagle Technology (later Anthem Technology) manufactured 16- bit Ethernet adapter and was an open 16- bit ISA bus design for Ethernet cards.



The adapter NE1000 was the 8- bit ISA counterpart; The design of both cards is almost identical to, and is based, as the WD WD80x3, 3Com 3C503 and NE1000 cards on the National Semiconductor DP8390 chip. As of July 1988, the NE2000 cards for 495 USD were offered simultaneously to the model for the Micro Channel bus NE / 2 In June 1989, the price was lowered to 345 USD.

Novell introduced both open designs are available, with the intention to move as many card manufacturer for the construction of such maps. Already in the design consideration was given to low production costs, their own processors - High -end cards eg Schneider & Koch (now SysKonnect ) had their own 68000 CPU and cost almost as much as a former PC - and all what else could be expensive (RAM), was specifically avoided. This entry-level price for Ethernet cards were sustained reduction, particularly to Novell Netware -based networks to open more markets.

NE2000 and their successors

NE2000-compatible Ethernet cards (actually NE2000 and compatible ) dominated, despite some shortcomings in the design, eventually the 16- bit ISA market. For the immediately following bus architecture, Extended ISA (EISA ), there was NE3200 cards constructively significantly differed. Only again with the introduction of PCI systems experienced the NE2000 -compatible cards, especially in the low-end range of a renaissance, and these cards can not actually work with original NE2000 drivers - they only have a similarly simple design.

Reasons for Success

The success was based on three major pillars: good functionality, the open design and the reasonable price. The advantages of the low price and the open designs are elsewhere already sufficiently discussed and immediately obvious. Straight but the functionality came to a high importance at this time. Many of the more expensive ones were particularly under DOS (DR- DOS, MS- DOS, PC -DOS) is very complicated to install. While in a NE2000, a free interrupt and a free port address were relatively easy to find, the other cards needed often additionally a free memory block in, depending on your computer manufacturer somewhat occupied otherwise, Upper memory ( between 640 KB and 1 MB ) the additional hardware knowledge required. Next had this memory block will be excluded with the caching process what had to be done in also vendor-specific -to-use computer BIOS related settings. As if this were not enough, there were also problems with memory management programs such as HIMEM.SYS or emm386.exe, both had to leave untouched the memory block of the map. Some cards also had to be found also a free DMA channel. Did you overcome all obstacles and made an optimizer optimize low memory, so an expensive card with their upper memory block (UMB ) was already in the way. If we compare the performance obtained with this pretty high installation complexity, these are often related in any relation. Although performance is a weak point of the NE2000 cards, but this is noticed in practice under high load. Therefore, the decision often went with normal workstations in favor of the NE2000 cards, even in small servers they could be found - Novell finally returned for its Netware server with the appropriate driver from.

The end of an era

NE2000-compatible ISA cards talked very long on the market, the introduction of the PCI bus (from 1990) made ​​only for servers for the complete disappearance of virtually all ISA network cards. The development of the Fast Ethernet Standards ( 1995) is first of all changed almost nothing - the technology was initially too expensive. However, when in the late 1990s Fast Ethernet distribution ( hubs, switches ) became increasingly popular and above all reasonably priced, heralded the end of the NE2000 ISA cards. The ISA bus could not move fast enough and cheap PCI cards lured into foreign stock data for 100BASE -TX networks. Now began the PCI cards from different manufacturers, initially almost always to take over 3Com, AMD, DEC or Intel chipsets market. Since these cards were not overpriced, it took a relatively long time to so-called NE2000-compatible 10/100-MBit-Karten came on the market. You can reach 2006 - for example Realtek 8029 - Winbond 89C940, Compex RL2000, or Via 86C926 chipset - again considerable popularity in the low end market segment. Nevertheless, the term NE2000 - compatible has lost much of its former ( marketing ) force. Instead NE2000 compatible today the sentence Realtek compatible or Realtek - based is just as common. In the era of gigabit networks and PCI - Express only remembers little of the time the NE2000 cards, after all, the quasi "successor" and top dog Realtek could also well positioned and holds today, especially in the SoHo area, large market share.