"VGA"-like drivers for networking

One of the things that has always impressed me about keyboard, mouse and monitor support is that it just works. That is, you can plug in almost any keyboard, mouse and monitor, on basically any video card, and it there is some level of support provided by your OS/BIOS/etc. Independent of the OS. Independent of the generation of hardware.

This makes perfect sense. Without at least two of these three (some might argue that the mouse is optional, but I would disagree when you consider non-advanced users), you can’t bootstrap the system. You need to see something in order to load a better video driver. This was a feature born out of necessity.

Times have changed. User expectations around their PC have changed. Networking is mainstream now, not just for corporations. The # of high speed internet connections in the home is growing. Many, many people have and use NICs on a daily basis.

My wish

I think we should have a similar, fallback mechanism to bootstrap NICs to get users online. In the absence of a driver, I should not be required to find a floppy disk (if my PC even has a floppy drive….my new one at home does not to my knowledge) or burn a CD on another machine to get a good driver. I should be able to get online with basic functionality on a basic connection. I further expect my cable modem / dsl / etc. to work in this configuration. I expect this much to work. Then we can let something like WU or downloads from the manufacturers website give us the better driver.

I don’t know anything about writing drivers, so I ask you, the universe. Why does this not exist?