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Wi-Fi Pioneers: Where are they now?

Wi-Fi Pioneers: Where are they now?
by Majeed Ahmad on 10-12-2015 at 4:00 pm

Wi-Fi is the unsung hero of the mobile revolution. Some people even call it the real Internet. In retrospect, smartphones took off partly because Apple forced mobile operators to seriously consider handsets with Wi-Fi capabilities. Now Wi-Fi is an intrinsic networking component serving smartphones, tablets and notebook computers in home, office and public environments.

The origins of Wi-Fi can be traced back to the 1980s when the wired networks like Ethernet were just taking off. The article briefly chronicles the work of three pioneers who laid the groundwork for one of the most successful facets of the Internet.

Michael Marcus:

The man who proposed the idea of ISM band

In 1980, an engineer named Michael Marcus proposed the idea of opening up the 900 MHz industrial, science and medical (ISM) band at 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequencies. Marcus theorized that license-free radio spectrum in the hands of technology entrepreneurs would stimulate innovation and thus yield productive benefits.

After five years of prodding from Marcus, in 1985, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened up the so-called garbage band allocated for household devices like microwave ovens and radio-controlled toy cars. However, the commission mandated that this new license-free band would use spread spectrum technology to ensure that there was no interference with the existing devices using the ISM band.

Where is he now?

Marcus now heads a consultancy firm Marcus Spectrum Solutions LLC that is located in Washington D.C. area and provides wireless spectrum-related services like certifications and training.

Victor Hayes:

Hayes led the IEEE 802.11 committee through its first decade

In the 1980s, IT equipment maker NCR Corp. faced a problem: its retail customers changed their floor plan from time to time, and when they did that, the NCR-provided cash registers had to move and be re-connected to the computer servers. So in 1988, NCR, which wanted to use the unlicensed radio spectrum to hook up its wireless cash registers, asked protocols specialist Victor Hayes to look into this technology prospect.

The engineering teams of NCR and its joint venture partner AT&T eventually developed the Wi-Fi technology in 1991 in Neuwegein, the Netherlands. The product called WaveLAN—offering speeds of 1 Mbit/s to 2 Mbit/s—would serve cashier systems in a wireless environment.

Hayes was the first chair of the IEEE 802.11 group, which in 1997 finalized the wireless standard that later became known to the world as Wi-Fi. The Netherlands native, who had joined NCR in 1974, is often being referred to as the “Father of Wi-Fi” for his role in establishing and chairing the IEEE 802.11 Standards Working Group for Wireless LANs.

Where is he now?

Hayes is now senior research fellow at the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, where he carries out development work for flexible wireless spectrum management.

Bruce Tuch:

Tuch was a lead innovator in the Wi-Fi development arena

Bruce Tuch was working as an RF engineer at Bell Labs when he got involved in work related to WaveLAN, of product of NCR, which had now been acquired by Bell Labs’ parent company AT&T. Subsequently, Hayes and Tuch approached the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), where a committee named 802.3 had earlier developed the Ethernet LAN standard. Consequently, a new committee called 802.11 was formed, and work on a new wireless LAN standard began.

After his early contribution in the development of WaveLAN product and technology standardization at IEEE 802.11 committee, he continued to lead the Wi-Fi development efforts at the Agere System’s Utrecht Systems Engineering Centre in the Netherlands.

Where is he now?

Tuch is now based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he is Vice President of Development at PowerOasis, a firm that provides turnkey mobile communications solutions for renewable energy markets.

The article is based on excerpts from the book “Age of Mobile Data: The Wireless Journey to all Data 4G Networks.”

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