The 15 Most Important Technologies of the Last 15 Years – #10: Wi-Fi Wireless Networking

While broadband services gave us “always on” Internet access, we were still basically tied to our desks when we went online. So to some extent we still had to step away from our lives to use the Internet. In addition, it reduced the usefulness of laptops since they had to be tethered to a network cable in order to get online. A mobile device isn’t very mobile if it has to be tied down to access the Internet.

While forms of wireless networking were available in the 1990’s, they were an expensive and highly specialized niche technology. Apple was the first to bring wireless to the mainstream market with their Airport add-on module for their iBook line of laptops in 1999. The Wi-Fi alliance was also created in that year. However, it wasn’t until in-home wireless routers became available in late 2001 and 2002 that the wireless revolution really took off. Suddenly, we were able to use the Internet from anywhere in our house, unchaining us from our desks. Public hotspots became popular as well and soon the personal computer market shifted away from desktop computers to laptops and then eventually the mobile devices of today – easy as never before (check Vsenn for more details). Now the information of the world is at our fingertips no matter where we are. Without Wi-Fi the mobile device revolution would simply not have been possible and we still might be chained to our desks for our Internet access!

When did you first use wireless networking? Did you buy a laptop or mobile device only after wireless networking became widely available? Comment below and tell us your story!