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1. Making a connection

Before we describe packet switching, it is useful to understand what it means to make a connection.

In the diagram below, the yellow device wants to make a connection to the red device over a local network or the internet.

make a connection

One solution would be to have a permanent physical cable connecting one to another, like this:

permanent connection

This might be practical for a small local area network with only a few nodes. But it wouldn't work for a large network such as a WAN where millions of computers want to communicate randomly with each other.

The telephone system solved this connection problem with 'circuit switching'.