History of WiFi
- From: Jim Polaski <jpolaski@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2006 18:42:39 -0500
Just in case you think Apple had no significance in the adoption of WiFi.
The fragmented market meant it took a long time for the various vendors to agree
on definitions and draw up a standard acceptable to 75% of the committee
members. Finally, in 1997, the committee agreed on a basic specification. It
allowed for a data-transfer rate of two megabits per second, using either of two
spread-spectrum technologies, frequency hopping or direct-sequence transmission.
(The first avoids interference from other signals by jumping between radio
frequencies; the second spreads the signal out over a wide band of frequencies.)
The new standard was published in 1997, and engineers immediately began working
on prototype equipment to comply with it. Two variants, called 802.11b (which
operates in the 2.4GHz band) and 802.11a (which operates in the 5.8GHz band),
were ratified in December 1999 and January 2000 respectively. 802.11b was
developed primarily by Richard van Nee of Lucent and Mark Webster of Intersil
(then Harris Semiconductor).
Companies began building 802.11b-compatible devices. But the specification was
so long and complex?it filled 400 pages?that compatibility problems persisted.
So in August 1999, six companies?Intersil, 3Com, Nokia, Aironet (since purchased
by Cisco), Symbol and Lucent (which has since spun off its components division
to form Agere Systems)?got together to create the Wireless Ethernet
Compatibility Alliance (WECA).
³Wi-Fi's ultimate significance may be that it provides a glimpse of what will be
possible with future wireless technologies²
The technology had been standardised; it had a name; now Wi-Fi needed a market
champion, and it found one in Apple, a computer-maker renowned for innovation.
The company told Lucent that, if it could make an adapter for under $100, Apple
would incorporate a Wi-Fi slot into all its laptops. Lucent delivered, and in
July 1999 Apple introduced Wi-Fi as an option on its new iBook computers, under
the brand name AirPort. ³And that completely changed the map for wireless
networking,² says Greg Raleigh of Airgo, a wireless start-up based in Palo Alto,
California. Other computer-makers quickly followed suit. Wi-Fi caught on with
consumers just as corporate technology spending dried up in 2001."
"The measure of a man is what he will do while
expecting that he will get nothing in return!"
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