Evolution of Wireless Technology
Evolution of Wireless Technology
These days when you hear the term wireless technology people automatically think of Wi-Fi or wireless internet, but the thing is wireless technology has been around much longer than wireless internet, or even internet itself. The thing is wireless technology has been around as long as the late 1800’s and has tremendously evolved over the course of the last 100 years since its creation and existence. The first true demonstration of wireless technology was the wireless telegraph system, which lead to the birth of the radio, which evolved to cellular phones, and has now gave way to what we know today as Wi-Fi.
It has be the evolution of wireless technology and its abilities that has taken a giant leap in the technology race and is still maturing since it has only been around for 100 or so years. The first true wireless technological demonstration was when a message was transmitted between two English telegraph offices. This major feat was accomplished by Guglielmo Marconi who invented the first wireless telegraph. Marconi later gave way to the “Birth of the Radio” in 1897 when he was awarded the patent for the wireless telegraph by radio waves. Marconi later established a station on Needles Island that communicated with the English coast.
At this time in history wireless was so new but so innovating that many saw how it could improve communication time vastly and was being improved to further the distance at which messages could be communicated. Only a year later after Marconi set up the station was communication between France and England established. It only took 3 more years for Marconi to set up communication across the Atlantic from Cornwall to Newfoundland which lead to Marconi getting the Nobel Peace Prize for physics for his discovery with radio waves and wireless communication.
The birth of the radio we think of these days as hearing a voice transmitted didn’t happen until 1914 with the first voice over radio transmission. It wasn’t long till people started using radios to relay information to people. The first real use of radios was in Detroit when the police installed radio receivers in all their police cars to tell the drivers locations and other useful information. The next big advancement in wireless technology with the radio was the discovery and use of AM and FM radios that transmitted over different frequencies.
AM radio waves vary with the combination of audio frequencies and radio frequencies, this allows for long distance communication but is susceptible interference from electricity and many other things; FM radio waves change to reproduce the audio signal, which allows for little to no interference and much better sound quality, but shortens the distance that FM radio waves can travel significantly. The major downside to radio at this time is that it is one way of communication; you have someone sending the message to someone else with a receiver, not cross communication.
This was somewhat fixed with the introduction of two way radios that allowed for one person to talk to another through a handheld radio that worked off of different channels. The only problem with two way radios was that they were somewhat limited to range and it was possible for other people to listen in on communications. The next major advancement in wireless technology came in 1979 when Japan deployed the first cellular communication system. At this time though the system was crude and wasn’t able to support many users and service was poor.
It took a few years for the systems to advance and become sufficient enough to support commercial use. In 1991 the US Digital Cellular Phone System was introduced and only a year later was the first (GSM) cellular phones approved for sale. After cellular phones hit the market wireless technology boomed in advancement. Companies were working on providing better quality service to more people around the nation and around the world as the number of cellular users surpassed 10 million. Only a few years down the road were the first smart phones hitting the market, which were capable of sending and receiving emails and fax services.
Smart phones have since advanced to the point where we are capable of sending and receiving pictures and video, as well as achieving the ability to live stream video chat across your cell phone providers’ data connection. The cellular phone since hasn’t had many more breakthroughs in wireless technology other than improved signal quality and a larger coverage area. Another significant breakthrough in the wireless technology field was the introduction of satellites and satellite phones. Satellite phones were created as a means of placing a call to anyone from anywhere around the orld. As the name states, satellite phones transmit a satellite signal to one of 48 satellites orbiting the globe, from there the signal bounces around until it reaches a satellite that has a direct signal with the ground receiver it needs to transfer to. Satellites were created for many reasons but one was for a fast and easy way to transmit data from anywhere to anywhere around the globe. However unlike radios, cell phones, and Wi-Fi; satellites transmit data on a spectrum that is regulated by the government and you need licensing to use a satellite signals.
Another significant breakthrough in satellite technology was the introduction of satellite television, which enabled companies to broadcast television shows and movies to houses via satellite dish pointed towards the ellipses of a satellite. The one downside to satellite technology is that it needs an unobstructed signal in order to make a connection. The first real breakthrough in Wi-Fi was actually in 1985, several years before Wi-Fi was invented. In 1985 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), America’s telecoms regulator opened several bands in the wireless spectrum.
This decision allowed these bands to be used without the need for a government license; at the time this was unheard of because there was very little unlicensed spectrum. A visionary engineer, Michael Marcus, sanctioned three chunks of the industrial, scientific, and medical bands of the spectrum to be opened to communications entrepreneurs. The next major advancement Wi-Fi came when several companies realized that the best way for it to thrive amongst the populace was to be universal so that a person wasn’t locked into a particular vendor’s products.
It was at this time the Institute of Electrical and electronics engineers (IEEE) was approached by Viktor Hayes and Bruce Tuch from Bell labs for create a standard for all wireless internet providers to abide by. A committee called 802. 11 was set up with Mr. Hayes as chairman, and the negotiations started. It took a few years for the majority of vendors to come to an agreement and in 1997 the committee came up with a basic specification, of using spread-spectrum technologies, frequency hopping, or direct-sequence transmission.
Engineers at this time quickly came up with prototypes to comply with the standard and two variants emerged, the 802. 11b which operated on the 2. 4GHz band and the 802. 11a which operated on the 5. 8GHz band. It was at this time the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) coined the term Wi-Fi as it was a consumer friendly name that stuck. So now the technology had been standardized; it had a name; now all it needed was a company to bring it to the market, and so it found one with Apple.
Apple told Lucent that if it could make an adapter for fewer than one hundred dollars it would incorporate it into all of its laptops, and so shortly after it found its way into the new iBook. It didn’t take long for every other company to follow suite. Wi-Fi was then boosted by the popularity for high-speed broadband internet connections that allowed several computers to connect to one access point without the need for cables. In the last few years there haven’t really been any breakthroughs in wireless technology, just some major tweaking to the rules and regulations.
The FCC tweaked the rules to allow a new standard 802. 11g which uses orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) which is capable of achieving speeds up to 54 megabits per second in the 2. 4GHz band. Since then many other variants have come up across the last few years such as 3G and 4G mobile phone networking and mobile hotspots which have provided better and faster internet to more people on the go as they are able to create a short range Wi-Fi “hotspot” from their cellular phone or adapter which has allowed people to bring the internet with them.
A new technology has also popped up, 802. 16 also known as WiMax, which is capable of providing up to 70 megabits per second and capable of reaching 50 kilometers, much better than Wi-Fi that is only capable of 50 meters. Another standard 802. 15. 3 known as WiMedia, a short range high capacity connection specifically designed for media, capable of streaming videos and providing networking for entertainment devices.
In the last two or three years wireless technology hasn’t seen any advancement, but many companies are working to come out with the next biggest thing to profit off of, and there is no doubt that wireless technology has not seen its demise for further advancing. In the last hundred years wireless technology started from sending a short simple message via telegraph to streaming videos, playing games and live steaming video chat across home and mobile broadband networks and satellite connections, wireless technology has rooted itself deep within society and as yet to improve even further as technology itself advances and revolutionizes our world. We have seen this technology evolve from telegraphs, to one way radios, two way radio transmitters, cellular devices, satellite signals, wireless internet to computers, to mobile wireless internet to phones and laptops; all while continuing to advance to meet societies needs and demands for something that is even better and faster. Only time can tell what the next big advancement in the wireless technology field will be and where it will take us, but one thing is for sure, it hasn’t finished advancing.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 September 2016
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