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Few technologies have expanded and improved to the extent that Wi-Fi has. However you spell it, WiFi, Wi-Fi, or Wifi is short for Wireless Fidelity. The first widespread version of a wireless network became available in 1997. Early versions were low-speed, short-range, and unreliable. Now, there is technology to support high-speed, long-range networks that can provide internet access across entire buildings, complexes, and even cities. Numerous devices enable these connections, and even more devices harness them.

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1. The Birth of Wi-Fi

The technology that makes Wi-Fi possible relies on a variety of patents from many different companies and individuals. In 1985, the United States Federal Communication Commission allowed corporations to harness and use the ISM band of radio frequencies. Several years later in 1991, the NCR Corporation and AT&T created a precursor to the connection protocols of WiFi. Over the next few years, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and their chair, Vic Hayes, designed the 802.11b and 802.11a standards. In 1997, they made this version of Wi-Fi, then known as IEEE 802.11, available to the public. Just two years later, each of the companies that held the patents that made Wi-Fi possible formed a trade association called the Wi-Fi Alliance.

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