Thursday, September 18, 2008

History of Wireless LAN

In 1970 University of Hawaii, under the leadership of Norman Abramson, developed the world’s first computer communication network using low-cost ham-like radios, named ALOHAnet. The bi-directional star topology of the system included seven computers deployed over four islands to communicate with the central computer on the Oahu Island without using phone lines.[3]

"In 1979, F.R. Gfeller and U. Bapst published a paper in the IEEE Proceedings reporting an experimental wireless local area network using diffused infrared communications. Shortly thereafter, in 1980, P. Ferrert reported on an experimental application of a single code spread spectrum radio for wireless terminal communications in the IEEE National Telecommunications Conference. In 1984, a comparison between Infrared and CDMA spread spectrum communications for wireless office information networks was published by Kaveh Pahlavan in IEEE Computer Networking Symposium which appeared later in the IEEE Communication Society Magazine. In May 1985, the efforts of Marcus led the FCC to announce experimental ISM bands for commercial application of spread spectrum technology. Later on, M. Kavehrad reported on an experimental wireless PBX system using code division multiple access. These efforts prompted significant industrial activities in the development of a new generation of wireless local area networks and it updated several old discussions in the portable and mobile radio industry.

The first generation of wireless data modems was developed in the early 1980s by amateur radio operators, who commonly referred to this as packet radio. They added a voice band data communication modem, with data rates below 9600 bit/s, to an existing short distance radio system, typically in the two meter amateur band. The second generation of wireless modems was developed immediately after the FCC announcement in the experimental bands for non-military use of the spread spectrum technology. These modems provided data rates on the order of hundreds of kbit/s. The third generation of wireless modem [then] aimed at compatibility with the existing LANs with data rates on the order of Mbit/s. Several companies [developed] the third generation products with data rates above 1 Mbit/s and a couple of products [had] already been announced [by the time of the first IEEE Workshop on Wireless LANs]."[4]

"The first of the IEEE Workshops on Wireless LAN was held in 1991. At that time early wireless LAN products had just appeared in the market and the IEEE 802.11 committee had just started its activities to develop a standard for wireless LANs. The focus of that first workshop was evaluation of the alternative technologies. [By 1996], the technology [was] relatively mature, a variety of applications [had] been identified and addressed and technologies that enable these applications [were] well understood. Chip sets aimed at wireless LAN implementations and applications, a key enabling technology for rapid market growth, [were] emerging in the market. Wireless LANs [were being] used in hospitals, stock exchanges, and other in building and campus settings for nomadic access, point-to-point LAN bridges, ad-hoc networking, and even larger applications through internetworking. The IEEE 802.11 standard and variants and alternatives, such as the wireless LAN interoperability forum and the European HiperLAN specification had made rapid progress, and the unlicensed PCS [ Unlicensed Personal Communications Services and the proposed SUPERNet, later on renamed as U-NII, bands also presented new opportunities." [5]

On July 21, 1999, AirPort debuted at the Macworld Expo in New York City with Steve Jobs picking up an iBook supposedly to give the cameraman a better shot as he surfed the Web. Applause quickly built as people realized there were no wires. This was the first time Wireless LAN became publicly available at consumer pricing and easily available for home use.[citation needed] Before the release of the Airport, Wireless LAN was too expensive for consumer use and used exclusively in large corporate settings.[citation needed]

Originally WLAN hardware was so expensive that it was only used as an alternative to cabled LAN in places where cabling was difficult or impossible. Early development included industry-specific solutions and proprietary protocols, but at the end of the 1990s these were replaced by standards, primarily the various versions of IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi). An alternative ATM-like 5 GHz standardized technology, HiperLAN/2, has so far not succeeded in the market, and with the release of the faster 54 Mbit/s 802.11a (5 GHz) and 802.11g (2.4 GHz) standards, almost certainly never will.

In November 2007, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) won a legal battle in the US federal court of Texas against Buffalo Technology which found the US manufacturer had failed to pay royalties on a US WLAN patent CSIRO had filed in 1996. CSIRO are currently engaged in legal cases with computer companies including Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Netgear which argue that the patent is invalid and should negate any royalties paid to CSIRO for WLAN-based products.

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