Who Invented Wi-Fi?

Vic Hayes has been called the "Father of Wi-Fi," but there's an actor and composer involved, too

Victor Hayes gets the credit for inventing Wi-Fi, but like many inventions, more than one person is involved.

This article explains the origins of Wi-Fi and describes the people and tech that made it possible. It also explores how Wi-Fi has developed and changed over the years.

A Wi-Fi router sits on a table
Place the Wi-Fi router in its natural position.

The Invention of Wi-Fi

A lot has gone into making Wi-Fi what it is today, so it's untrue and unfair to name a single person as its sole inventor.

Between the technology that makes wireless communication possible, to the hardware that plays just as important a role, are several people that could be considered the glue that held all of it together and pushed advancements over the years to make Wi-Fi what it is today. All of these people are equally important when we consider the makers of Wi-Fi.

As mentioned above, Victor "Vic" Hayes is often called the "Father of Wi-Fi." Vic was chairman of the IEEE 802.11 Standards Working Group for Wireless Local Area Networks. IEEE is the governing body that determines how wireless devices should communicate with one another and how they should be designed.

While Vic's role was important, it doesn't paint the whole picture. There's more to Wi-Fi than just its rules and standards.

For example, consider actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil, who invented a radio guidance system during World War 2. It used frequency-hopping technology that allowed radio signals could move to different frequencies, thus preventing radio jamming. While this isn't Wi-Fi, their concepts were later used for Wi-Fi.

But even in that example, numerous others were involved in similar projects, sometimes even before that time. In 1899, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi experimented with frequency-selective reception to minimize radio interference. Nikola Tesla and others were involved with similar frequency-hopping tech.

In 1971, after researching whether radio waves could be used for computer communication, the University of Hawaii developed the first public demonstration of a wireless packet data network. The networking system, called ALOHAnet, used ultra-high frequency (UHF) for its operation, allowing seven computers across four islands to be connected to a central computer for wireless communication.

About a decade later, regulatory developments in the US eventually opened up frequencies that could be used for Wi-Fi networks.

In the early 1990s, Australian engineer John O'Sullivan helped patent a technique for reducing radio signal interference for computer networking still used in modern Wi-Fi implementations.

In 2000, Radiata introduced an 802.11a-compliant chipset that could transfer data as fast as 54 Mbps. Since then, additional 802.11 standards have been developed, including 802.11b/g/n, 802.11ac, and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6).

There were lots of people, spread over several decades, who played a role in creating Wi-Fi. This development is still ongoing today.

Wi-Fi Basics

Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that allows devices to communicate with one another using radio waves. Wi-Fi devices can send and receive data between each other over the air without wires.

A laptop is one clear example of a Wi-Fi-enabled device. Still, many other devices, including TVs, tablets, smartphones, refrigerators, and washing machines, can communicate over a Wi-Fi network!

The router is a primary component of a computer network. Your internet service provider provides the internet connection to your router. The router, then, supplies internet to all the devices in your home. A Wi-Fi router does this wirelessly.

Wi-Fi is also referred to as WLAN (wireless local area network). It's based on the 802.11 IEEE network standard. Some terms commonly discussed concerning Wi-Fi are 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz, bandwidth, and megabits (Mb).

Wi-Fi Today

Most of us are used to having Wi-Fi access. So much so, It's not a thought anymore. Many homes and businesses have Wi-Fi up and running. Wi-Fi hotspots at restaurants, parks, and hotels are quite common, too. Our new devices come with Wi-Fi turned on right out of the box, just waiting to connect to our home networks.

Your average internet user might think this technology has been fully developed because of its widespread use and easy access, but it's not finished improving.

The demand for internet access is always increasing, and never-ending security issues must be addressed (moving away from WEP is one example of this).

  • Who invented the Internet?

    Like many inventions, it wasn't one person. The internet as we know it today was created by scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf. The ideas they came up with were used by Arpanet, which eventually turned into the internet we still use today.

  • Who invented the web?

    The Internet comprises several pieces and protocols, most invisible during our daily use. One part you are familiar with since you are using it right now is the World Wide Web, typically called the Web. The Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990.

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