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Devices that access a network need to be identified. For this reason, many network technologies, like Ethernet, use unique addresses to identify the network card, which is used to access the network. These addresses are usually called the Media Access Control address or MAC address.
Each device is assigned a MAC address by its manufacturer. The original Xerox Ethernet addressing scheme is still used to assign MAC addresses. It allows MAC addresses to be 48-bits long. So, there are 248 (or 281,474,976,710,656) possible MAC addresses. MAC addresses identify many things, such as the type of device being used.
A MAC address is mainly used by a switch to direct the data to the right place almost like a home address. The IP is the road name and the MAC address is the door number
References[change | change source]
IEEE Std 802-2001 (PDF). The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE). 2002-02-07. p. 19. ISBN 0-7381-2941-0. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
The universal administration of LAN MAC addresses began with the Xerox Corporation administering Block Identifiers (Block IDs) for Ethernet addresses.