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The History and Future of Wi-Fi

3 minute read
Brian Wallace avatar
The internet as we know it didn't come into existence until the 1990s, but the story of Wi-Fi started decades earlier.

The history of Wi-Fi spans a much longer time period than you may think. 

Even before wireless communication was possible, Nikola Tesla predicted we would one day be able to communicate with someone across the world with a device that could fit in a vest pocket. Other theorists predicted that small devices would be able to store libraries or devices would be able to display text for an entire room to read together — all predictions that have come true in less than the last hundred years. The technology we have seen in the last few decades represents the most rapid advancement in human communication history. 

The future of Wi-Fi is the next step.

From Internet to Wi-Fi

The internet as we know it took several steps to build, the first of which was arguably the ARPANET in 1969. Developed by the Department of Defense, this technology networked multiple computers together so they could communicate with each other — the first prototype of the internet. Then came the TCP/IP protocol in 1983, growing a single network to a network of networks, which led to the advent of the World Wide Web in 1990.

After the internet was developed, people wanted a way to connect wirelessly, a technology that was developed by Hedy Lamarr (more commonly known for her acting than her inventions) in 1941 which skipped signals over multiple frequencies, intended to guide torpedoes without detection during World War II. While the first Wi-Fi network was installed at Carnegie Mellon University in 1993, it wasn’t available on a large scale until 1997.

The signal strength of Wi-Fi connections started off very slowly and steadily grew over time. The jump between Wi-Fi4 and Wi-Fi5 was significant — from 600Mbps to 7000Mbps. The jump between Wi-Fi5 and Wi-Fi6 isn’t going to be as significant in terms of speed, but it is going to be the next revolution in communication.

Related Article: Tim Berners-Lee Has a Plan to Reinvent the Web

From Wi-Fi5 to Wi-Fi6

Currently Wi-Fi technology can only connect to one device at a time, sending and receiving small packets of information from each before moving on to the next. This was revolutionary at a time when households shared one computer and other devices weren’t connected, but it’s easy to get bogged down in current households with an average of five connected devices. Wi-Fi6 will be able to connect to multiple devices simultaneously, giving users the experience of much faster and more streamlined connectivity.

Learning Opportunities

The internet of things was the greatest impetus for this development. Think about all the devices we’re connecting to the internet these days — thermostats, doorbell cameras, lighting, garage doors, even your oven. Greater Wi-Fi connectivity ensures these devices work seamlessly without interrupting things like your streaming television shows and your computers.

In offices, Wi-Fi6 will have the ability to prevent connectivity errors brought about by having multiple devices on the same network. Bring your own tech is dominating offices these days, but all those wireless connections can cause problems. The next generation of Wi-Fi has implications for businesses as well as homes.

The internet and the devices connected to it have made major strides in just a few decades. Learn more by checking out the the next generation of Wi-Fi infographic.

Related Article: What's 100 Times Faster Than Wi-Fi?

About the author

Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-2018.

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