A computer network is a group of computers that are interconnected by electronic circuits or wireless transmissions of various designs and technologies for the purpose of exchanging data or communicating information between them or their users. Networks may be classified according to a wide variety of characteristics. This article provides a general overview of types and categories and also presents the basic components of a network.

A computer network allows sharing of resources and information among devices connected to the network. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) funded the design of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) for the United States Department of Defense. It was the first operational computer network in the world. Development of the network began in 1969, based on designs developed during the 1960s. For a history see ARPANET, the first network.

Facilitating communications. Using a network, people can communicate efficiently and easily via e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, telephony, video telephone calls, and videoconferencing. Sharing hardware. In a networked environment, each computer on a network can access and use hardware on the network.

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