the dawn of the wireless world.

We take Wi-Fi for granted but where would we be without it? We explore the invention of Wi-Fi and all the modern benefits it provides us.

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the birth of wi-fi.

You might be surprised to learn that modern-day Wi-Fi, something many of us feel we couldn’t function without, is the result of a theory by Stephen Hawking on black holes. He postulated that it might be possible for smaller black holes to release radio waves when they “evaporate”. When scientists tested this theory nothing turned up, the background noise of the universe was just too loud. However, by co-incidence in 1992, The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) asked Australian physicist and engineer John O’Sullivan, who’d previously worked on Hawking’s black hole theory, to invent a way for computers to communicate wirelessly. He was able to use the tools developed to try to isolate the radio waves “evaporating” from black holes to invent Wi-Fi.

The big question here really is, if Wi-Fi was developed in 1992 and first released for consumers in 1997, why did we all have that dial-up sound, and then broadband until the mid-noughties? Well, the long and short of it is the technology of Wi-Fi at that time still couldn’t compete with the speed of dial-up. From 2002 until 2009, Wi-Fi was in a race to develop better routers that transmitted broadband internet into devices using just transmitters and radio signals, along with the devices themselves needing to be Wi-Fi enabled. By 2012 everything had caught up, and dial-up internet became a noisy relic of the past.

where are we now?

Today, Wi-Fi is everywhere. We get annoyed when it’s down. We are even more frustrated when it’s slow. When our favourite coffee shop makes a stand and switches it off, we go somewhere else. Train stations have it. Aeroplanes have it (well, kind of). Many of the tech giants, such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, would operate a lot differently without Wi-Fi, and many modern jobs wouldn’t even exist without it! Now it’s getting to the point where we demand free Wi-Fi everywhere, all the time.

Before this pipe dream comes true, what’s certain is that Wi-Fi will become faster and more efficient with better cybersecurity. Considering the list of connective devices available these days: it will need to. Refrigerators, cars, wearables, interactive whiteboards are staples on the list of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is the interconnection of devices able to send and receive data via wireless internet and experts estimate that by 2020 “the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects”.

With a growing number of devices becoming connected to the internet, issues of security are becoming more prominent. Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important on a personal and professional level. Cyber security experts and software developers have to constantly keep abreast of recent developments to ensure that systems are kept secure. However, this hasn’t stopped us from using our connected devices for practically every task.

With our smartphones, we can hail rides, order food, shop via apps, download books, watch our favourite series, FaceTime our families, track our fitness, watch exercise classes, listen to music, even meditate. Many people also depend on apps to generate income: Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and freelance websites such as People Per Hour and Freelancer, to name a few. This has created a more flexible working environment for a lot of people, as more and more of our jobs are moved online. The good news is that working from home has never been easier to pitch to your boss.

Wi-Fi has been so successful and so revolutionary, many aspects of our lives have been affected. However, with our increasing dependence on IoT, the technology of Wi-Fi may struggle to keep up with the growing demands. We’re also trying more and more to schedule time away from being constantly connected. Even big companies are addressing concerns by releasing apps which let people know how much time they are spending on their phones per week and phrases like “the right to disconnect” are entering the public discourse. Love it or loathe it, this STEM discovery has brought the world closer together.

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