In the CSMA/CD access method, all network devices that have messages to send must listen before transmitting. If a device detects a signal from another device, it will wait for a specified amount of time before attempting to transmit. When there is no traffic detected, a device will transmit its message. While this transmission is occurring, the device continues to listen for traffic or collisions on the LAN. After the message is sent, the device returns to its default listening mode. (Always listen except the back off period)
If the distance between devices is such that the latency of one device's signals means that signals are not detected by a second device, the second device may start to transmit, too. The media now has two devices transmitting their signals at the same time. Their messages will propagate across the media until they encounter each other. At that point, the signals mix and the message is destroyed. Although the messages are corrupted, the jumble of remaining signals continues to propagate across the media.
When a device is in listening mode, it can detect when a collision occurs on the shared media. The detection of a collision is made possible because all devices can detect an increase in the amplitude of the signal above the normal level. Once a collision occurs, the other devices in listening mode - as well as all the transmitting devices - will detect the increase in the signal amplitude. Once detected, every device transmitting will continue to transmit to ensure that all devices on the network detect the collision.
Once the collision is detected by the transmitting devices, they send out a jamming signal. This jamming signal is used to notify the other devices of a collision, so that they will invoke a backoff algorithm. This backoff algorithm causes all devices to stop transmitting for a random amount of time, which allows the collision signals to subside. After the delay has expired on a device, the device goes back into the "listening before transmit" mode. A random backoff period ensures that the devices that were involved in the collision do not try to send their traffic again at the same time, which would cause the whole process to repeat. But, this also means that a third device may transmit before either of the two involved in the original collision have a chance to re-transmit.
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