WI–FI 6 IS the next generation of wireless internet, and we’re happy about that for two reasons. First of all, it’s faster and has more capacity. And secondly, it means that the Wi–Fi Alliance has finally got the hang of giving things sensible names. Well, nearly: Technically Wi–Fi 6 is really Wi–Fi Certified 6™, but we’re just going to ignore that.
A TRIP TO THE AIRPORT
Let’s go back to 21 July 1999. Steve Jobs is passing an iBook through a hula hoop to demonstrate that the Mac is connected to the internet, without a cable, thanks to the magic of “AirPort.”
AirPort was Apple’s name for the 802.11b Wi–Fi standard, a technology for establishing wireless connections between devices via radio waves. The numbers tell you what international standard you’re talking about and the letter(s) show the version of that standard. 802.11b was the first Wi–Fi standard to go mainstream. It used the 2.4GHz radio frequency, which was already crowded with cordless phones and baby monitors, and it had a peak data transfer rate of 11Mbps. Nobody got anywhere close to that: Real-world speeds were affected by your distance from the router, the number of devices, and if there was anything metal between you and the router. It wasn’t fast, but it was convenient and Wi–Fi became a smash hit.
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