|20 mA current loop
||Not to be confused with the common instrumentation 4-20 mA analog standard, this is a digital communications network based on interrupting a 20 mA (or sometimes 60 mA) current loop to represent binary data. Although the low impedance gives good noise immunity, it is susceptible to wiring faults (such as breaks) which would fail the entire network.
||RS-232C The most common serial network used in computer systems, often used to link peripheral devices such as printers and mice to a personal computer. Limited in speed and distance (typically 45 feet and 20 kbps, although higher speeds can be run with shorter distances). I've been able to run RS-232 reliably at speeds in excess of 100 kbps, but this was using a cable only 6 feet long! RS-232C is often referred to simply as RS-232 (no "C").
||Two serial networks designed to overcome some of the distance and versatility limitations of RS-232C. Used widely in industry to link serial devices together in electrically "noisy" plant environments. Much greater distance and speed limitations than RS-232C, typically over half a mile and at speeds approaching 10 Mbps.
|Ethernet (IEEE 802.3)
||A high-speed network which links computers and some types of peripheral devices together. "Normal" Ethernet runs at a speed of 10 million bits/second, and "Fast" Ethernet runs at 100 million bits/second. The slower (10 Mbps) Ethernet has been implemented in a variety of means on copper wire (thick coax = "10BASE5", thin coax = "10BASE2", twisted-pair = "10BASE-T"), radio, and on optical fiber ("10BASE-F"). The Fast Ethernet has also been implemented on a few different means (twisted-pair, 2 pair = 100BASE-TX; twisted-pair, 4 pair = 100BASE-T4; optical fiber = 100BASE-FX).
||Another high-speed network linking computer devices together, using a philosophy of communication that is much different from Ethernet, allowing for more precise response times from individual network devices, and greater immunity to network wiring damage.
||A very high-speed network exclusively implemented on fiber-optic cabling.
||Originally implemented by the Modicon corporation, a large maker of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) for linking remote I/O (Input/Output) racks with a PLC processor. Still quite popular.
||Originally implemented by the Siemens corporation, another large maker of PLC equipment.
||A high-performance bus expressly designed to allow multiple process instruments (transmitters, controllers, valve positioners) to communicate with host computers and with each other. May ultimately displace the 4-20 mA analog signal as the standard means of interconnecting process control instrumentation in the future.