Throwback Thursday: PCMCIA Network Interface Cards

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane to the late-90’s. Back to a much simpler time when cheap gas, overinflated technology stocks, and unattractive computer hardware (and haircuts) reigned supreme. If, during this time, you happened to be the proud owner of a frumpy laptop (unattractive haircut optional), there is a good chance you had a certain connectivity peripheral protruding from the side of your machine… a PCMCIA network interface card (NIC).

PCMCIA stood for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association, which was the name of the group that governed the cards standards. PCMCIA NICs adhering to the standard had a dual-row 68-pin configuration, were 54mm wide, and came in a variety of thicknesses — depending on which type of card you had (Type I, II, and III were the most common).

The PCMCIA NIC card was a standard after market accessory for laptops in the late 90’s. If you were interested in using your portable computer on the Internet with that new-fangled “ethernet” technology you were going to need one of these bad boys as ethernet ports were still not standard on laptops at this time. Often accompanied by a dongle, the PCMCIA ethernet adapter provided users high-speed connectivity in a dial-up world. 3Com and Xircom were two of the major PCMCIA manufacturers.

The general consensus around the BGR office is that these cards were one of the least reliable pieces of hardware one could own. Jonathan, Zach, and myself can all recount buying, returning, and exchanging, multiple PCMCIA NIC cards due to various hardware failures, driver issues, and software incompatibilities. But, at that time, they were a necessary evil.

What say you? Can you remember the days of yore when ethernet was a privilege and a bent pin or lost dongle could totally ruin your day?

BGR’s Throwback Thursday is a weekly series covering our (and your) favorite gadgets, games, and software of yesterday and yesteryear.

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