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line card

A printed circuit board that provides a transmitting/receiving port for a local area network (LAN) or a carrier's telephone or wide area network (WAN). Line cards plug into telephone company switches and high-end routers, which have a modular chassis that accepts a range of cards.

Small and medium-size routers have a fixed number of ports, typically Ethernet, and the line card circuitry is built into each port. In a user's desktop or laptop computer, the counterpart of the line card is a circuit on the motherboard or a plug-in network card (see network adapter).

network adapter

Also called a "network interface card" (NIC), a network adapter is a plug-in card that enables a computer to transmit and receive data on a local network. Today, the term refers to an Ethernet adapter, although in the past, Token Ring, LocalTalk and FDDI networks were used. A network adapter may also refer to a Wi-Fi adapter (see wireless adapter). Ethernet circuitry is built onto the motherboard of every new desktop and laptop computer, and plug-in cards (NICs) are generally only used in servers and high-end workstations. See Ethernet adapter, Token Ring, LocalTalk, FDDI and OSI model.

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