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Wireless Networking

As the technology guy here at Falcon I am constantly looking at trends in our market.  In a previous newsletter I wrote about how over the years data center technology has evolved.  In this months newsletter I will be talking about wireless networking.  Wireless technology used in data communications has evolved much quicker than any other form of networking in my recent memory.  Although there are many types of wireless we use everyday, such as Bluetooth, Infrared, Cell phones and WIFI, for simplicity purposes I will be discussing WIFI.  By WIFI, I am referring to 802.11a,b,g, and n wireless products. Even though wireless communication has been around since before World War II, modern wireless data networking only became practical when the IEEE 802.11 version of wireless was created.  In the mid to late 1990’s 802.11 was sold with 1 to 2 mbs of speed initially available.  At the time it was a perfect fit for people doing wireless transmissions of bar codes and mostly character based data.  Companies such as Symbol and Telxon were early adaptors of this technology, which they used with bar code scanning systems they sold for tracking inventory. By the late 1990’s, 802.11a and 802.11b were starting to become available.  At 11 mbs and 54 mbs, this was a huge leap forward in technology that radically changed how people connect to local networks.  Even though this was half duplex technology, it was adequate to transmit and receive data and graphic files.  About 2003, 802.11g became available as an upgrade to 802.11b.  Both 802.11b & g function in the 2.4 gigahertz frequency band and are compatible with each other.  802.11g increases speed up to 54 mbs.  This is equal in speed to 802.11a that operates in the 5 gigahertz frequency range. Just recently, in late 2009, 802.11n was ratified, which takes a little from both the 2.4 ghz and 5 ghz technologies.  802.11n has the capability of over 300 mbs transmission speeds with the right set up. With this kind of speed we will see many changes and adaptations with data networking. I know I left a lot of detail off of the 802.11 evolution process.  I could stretch this out over several more pages and still not cover all the innovations that have taken place, but what strikes me as the real value of this technology is how it is being adopted into and changing our everyday lives.  Most products we talk about in our industry may not be noticed or perhaps will make a subtle difference to the non-technical individuals.  With WIFI it has made it profoundly easier to connect to technology in a multitude of environments.  Everywhere we look, WIFI has made an impact.  Home, schools, hospitals, airports, hotels, restaurants, and the list goes on and on.  I look at products such as kid's toys, video games, digital books, appliances, cameras, telephones, and TV's being offered with WIFI capabilities.  In many cases it expands the usefulness of these products immensely.  I was looking at several new cars being sold next year that have a built in WIFI access point to allow passengers to peruse the web while being driven down the highway.  I have a feeling this is only the beginning. When I was young I, like many of you, watched science fiction shows like StarTrek and thought this type of technology would never happen in my life time, if at all.  I guess now I am not so sure about that.  The way this wireless technology altered our lives, good or bad, in this short amount of time is truly amazing.  This reminds me of what my old Marine Corps drill instructor used to tell me.  He would always say, “Man can achieve what his mind can conceive.”  (He used that statement  to motivate us through the obstacle course in basic training.)  He also made many other profound statements that I cannot repeat in this newsletter. Have a great holiday season, Merry Christmas, Larry Donnelly