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Edit: Network traffic broken into packets, which you can think of like a letter in an envelope. The letter is your data (like a Google query) and the envelope has a ‘to’ and ‘from’ line to help know how to forward it on. All those devices have different techniques for knowing how and where to forward an envelope onto, once they get it.
**Hub:** Make a copy of a letter and give it to every one of your neighbors with a t-shirt cannon, whether you meant to give it to them or not
**Switch:** Make a copy of your letter and use a map to drive it to a specific neighbor
**Bridge:** When you want to give a letter to Billy the next neighborhood over, so you give it to his brother who lives right in-between the two neighborhoods
**Router:** Send your letter to the post office, and they’ll send it to your grandma by forwarding it to her post office and then driving it to her house using a map
**Gateway:** The post office in your neighborhood
**Modem:** Send your letter to the post office by saying it over the phone to a postal worker, where they type and print it off and forward it on
**Router:** Directs network traffic based on destination addresses and preset rules. These are usually situated between gateways/modems and switches.
**Switch:** These devices simply connect multiple devices together, sort of like a splitter. Although managed switches can do quite a bit more, such as create VLAN’s, which can help organize and protect network traffic.
**Gateway:** These are often times mistakenly referred to as modems or routers. They are devices that connect a private network to the internet. However they can also just be a device that connects one private network to a larger private network. A residential gateway is likely the device you have at home that connects you to the internet.
**Hub:** These are essentially the dumb versions of switches. They function like repeaters, so when a computer talks on the network, the hub will broadcast that message to every port on the hub. If the message reaches the target PC, then that PC will do the same. This is a very inefficient method, which is why hubs are obsolete. Switches contain memory, so they remember which PC is on which port, and will direct messages to the correct port without having to constantly broadcast to all ports.
**Bridge:** A network bridge joins two networks together. Such as one PC sharing the network connection with other PC’s. Things like transparent bridges create a seamless link, these are often times used by security devices such as firewalls. They will inspect network traffic and block anything that violates the rules.
**Modem:** A device that converts network traffic into a format that can be used on the media that connects you to the internet; Whether that be fiber, coaxial cable, 3G/4G wireless signals, or a copper phone line.
Edit: What you have at home, which is often times referred to as a ‘Wireless router’, or just a ‘router’, is actually a combination of a lot of these devices. They are indeed routers, but also switches, wireless access points, and sometimes modems/gateways. If it contains a modem, it can be referred to as a residential gateway, if it doesn’t, then it’s a wireless router. Small businesses will often use these same devices, but larger businesses will use enterprise class hardware, where these devices are separate and usually mounted in an equipment rack.
Hub: Everybody yells in your house whenever they want something, it sucks, plus now everyone knows everyone else’s business. Nobody yells anymore, hubs are bad.
Switch: If you want to yell at someone in your house, you go to them and yell at them, nobody else hears it. To yell back at you, they come to you. This is awesome but still local and indoors.
Router: You want to yell at your neighbor but don’t care where he is, these take the noise and pass it around all the way to his ears.
Bridge: It’s like that door that connects two rooms in a hotel so the family can yell at each other.
Modem: It converts the yelling into electricity so your yelling can travel far and reach your neighbor (you don’t know/care where he is, see router above)
Your ELI5 answer:
Modem = where internet comes from
Router = routes internet to devices from modem, usually creates wi-fi
Switch/hub = same as router just more dumb/less features
Bridge = Used to cross a body of water, or to connect two connections into one.
edit: a lot of people don’t understand what ELI5 means
Router = A call center phone system where everyone can only be reached through an extension from the main line.
Hub= a friggin mega phone. Literally.. Imagine every phone call received by a call center just get blasted out on the entire floor.
Switches=Everyone gets his own direct phone line in a call center.
Bridge=Two completely different physical call center locations using the same main phone line.
Modem=Modem is more like a translator. It’s a magical translation machine that can turn all the calls from Japanese speakers into English.
That’s the best ELI5 I can think of.