The term wireless simply means without wires. Networking has become one of the most important aspects of computing. Building on the ‘Man is a social animal’ image, computers need to interact and share data with other computers in order to become productive. Networking also helps increase interaction between different users and increase efficiency.
The earlier concept of networking was built on the idea of Plug and Play, a term coined by Microsoft. This basically means adding a new hardware to you PC’s hardware profile and being able to use it straight away without having to install any kind of software. The drivers needed are already present in the operating system and the network can be pre-configured. However, this was done through cables and in a large organization with hundreds of computers, this kind of networking model became more of a disadvantage. The major complaints were clustering of wires and electrical interference with cable mediums causing loss of speeds.
Another major disadvantage that majorly propagated the need for a wireless means of communication was the fact that long distance networking could not be achieved by means of wires and cables due to substantial costs and data loss risks involved.
Wireless was basically a term designed to be used to develop protocols to facilitate telecommunication. It involves use of radio frequencies and microwave communication with the help of electronic equipments like antennas. Wireless is much different from cordless in terms of usage and range of services it can be used for.
Wireless technologies have been researched into since as early as 1878. Some of the first few pioneers in this field of research were world renowned researchers like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. However, wireless as we know it today, got re-invented in the early 1990s.
Wireless and Computing
Although wireless is generally treated as a member of the telecommunication terminology, its potential was greatly recognized and was then implemented to the computing sphere. Computers began to be interconnected in the invisible mode, i.e. the age old standard of using wires for communication disappeared and gave rise to a more convenient standard.
The greatest flexibility that wireless networks offer is in terms of the mobility. They have defied the need for the user to go to the computer and completely reversed it. Now the computer can come to the user, i.e. a person may carry his laptop or portable device anywhere with him and still stay connected.
Wi-Fi is not a general technology term like wireless; rather it is a registered trademark of a body known as the Wi-Fi alliance. It was a brand designated to describe the embedded wireless local area network (WLAN) technology based on the IEEE 802.11 standard (the IEEE is the international body governing the rules and regulations to which ALL wireless and radio communications must conform). The Wi-Fi term, basically an acronymic term for wireless fidelity has been made hugely popular by laptops. It is the wireless networking technology that has been implemented keeping in mind the needs of the general usage of computers.
Wi-Fi finds use in data sharing, Internet access, and gaming. The popularity has soared so how that networks, which were normally associated with huge office spaces, are now setup at homes and colleges. Wi-Fi is widely used for personal and business spaces. A new term that has been a by product of Wi-Fi is hotspots. Hotspots are places which have Wi-Fi coverage and essentially mean that there is availability of an Internet connection at this place for your convenience.
How it works?
Wi-Fi uses a setup called the wireless router, which must be attached to the master server, or in case of an unsecured network, any computer which is going to be treated as a pseudo server, like the one that has internet connection in a cyber café. The coverage area depends on the hardware installed in this router and generally ranges close to about 10m for standard routers. This can be increased by adding multiple access points throughout the office/home space. These are called repeaters and they propagate the signal coming to them from the primary router.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Wireless networking, including Wi-Fi, offers a host of advantages to users. They:
- Improve on mobility without compromising on convenience
- They save the trouble and hassles of installing and maintaining a cable oriented connection network
- Due to high levels of research being reached, the cost of wireless networking equipment has come down a lot, making them more readily available
- They now (as of 2007’s newer standards) provide much greater security
However, there are also some downfalls to the wireless technology.
- The data rates cannot be matched with those of wired Local Area Networks (LAN)
- LAN provides much higher detail to security
- Can act as potential health hazards with radio frequency interferences
- Interoperability issues still prevail between different brands