“Do you have WiFi?” is a question that all of us have been asked at some point or another. Many times people confuse the terms “the internet” and “WiFi” believing that they are one and the same. Although they are connected, they are not the exact same thing.
What is WiFi?
WiFi is short for Wireless Fidelity and is a wireless networking technology which allows devices such as computers, iPads, some mobile phones, game consoles, etc. to communicate over a wireless signal. Similar to the way in which a radio is able to tune into radio station signals over airways, devices are able to pick up signals which connect them to the internet through the air. In fact, a Wi-Fi signal is actually a high frequency radio signal.
How Does WiFi Work?
When it comes to a wireless network, the router is a key piece of equipment. The router is actually connected physically to the internet with the use of an Ethernet cable. The high frequency radio signal mentioned above is in fact broadcasted by the router; this is what carries the data to and from the internet.
The adapter that is found in the device which is being used is able to pick up as well as read the signal that the router is emitting, it also sends this data back to the router and then on to the internet. What this is known as is upstream and downstream activity.
Due to how easily available the internet has become, especially wireless internet, taking that instant connection for granted is something which is quite east to due. Whether it is a mundane presence such as on your daily commute or mission-critical such as NASA´s WiFi on the moon, the fat that wireless technology is expanding means that many more opportunities are being opened for us to work as well as play in a smarter, faster and better manner.
That being said, it was not always so simple. Not even ten years ago, to access the web, a dial-up modem was required as was having to endure from two to ten minutes of an annoying sound as it connected. So, how was it that we got here, to this point where wireless internet is just about anywhere you turn?
The University of Hawaii had in 1971 completed the first ever transfer of wireless data packet ever to be attempted without connected cables or satellite. Norman Abramson, computer scientist and engineer was the one leading the team who used a new technology that was referred to as UHF radio waves (Ultra High Frequency) and with it successfully connected seven computers; all of these had been spread out across different islands of Hawaii. They called it ALOHANET.
At that time, nearly all telecommunications were regulated by the government, however, the Federal Communications Commission in 1985 made a move that was unprecedented: they allowed for three bands for use that was unlicensed, to be opened up, what this meant was that any entrepreneur or organization was able to communicate over them.
Soon companies such as AT&T, NCR, and IBM began to develop their very own wireless local area networks, this created the technologies which became the precursor to the WiFi that we have come to know, depend on and love today.