My relationship with Ethernet so far was: "I plug the cable into the computer and it works. If it doesn't, I call the sysadmin. Oh, and I remember something about CDMA/CD from the Networks course in Uni."

Now, this has changed. I found myself jumping several layers in this relationship (and going down several layers in the OSI model) - I'm now building an Ethernet switch.

We're using 8-channel chips, plugging them into a wider network (24+ channels). Now I have to worry about the transformers to connect to the chips, the LEDs that will show me activity, 10BASET, 100BASE-TX, auto-negotiation for speed & duplex, line integrity and the routing of 1-GHz inter-chip SERDES lines for coordination. Oh, and fearfully glancing at the 1500 page 802.3 standard - those IEEE guys sure know how to create lots of paper.