In 1941, Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr devised a system and submitted a patent for radio signals that changed frequencies.
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (Heidi Lamar) was born in Vienna. She is most famous as the first woman to appear nude in a mainstream film. In the same movie, she was also the first woman to fake an orgasm. If that wasn’t enough, she wrote the patent for her spread spectrum technology with orchestra director George Antheil.
In an age where Tesla was still alive and Edison only recently died nobody took the Hollywood bombshell and her band director seriously. Nevertheless, their invention eventually proved as important as anything the Wizard of Menlo Park, Edison, or The Man Who Invented the 20th Century, Tesla, ever released.
Eventually, in 1985, the US Federal Communications Commission opened bandwidth for unlicensed use. Wireless phones followed as a common use case. Subsequently, bathroom was never the same.
More significantly, in 1991, NCR invented a wireless data standard named WaveLAN for use in retail. WaveLAN extended Ethernet, the wired standard invented by Robert Metcalfe at Xerox PARC, over radio waves.
Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Eventually, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) — the standards committee for everything electronic – realized the need to beam data over radio waves, not wires.
Vic Hayes, chair of the IEEE, worked on the 802.11 standard released in 1997. Specifically, 802.11 is the wireless extension of wired Ethernet, invented by Metcalfe.
In 1997, a consortium of equipment makers created the Wi-Fi alliance and branded wireless ethernet (802.11), as Wi-Fi, trademarking the name.
Today, Wi-Fi is everywhere from individual homes to businesses. Walk into a coffee shop in Manhattan and they’ll offer Wi-Fi. Similarly, walk into a coffee shop in Hanoi and they’re also likely to offer Wi-Fi. Consumers expect water to be sold but there is a worldwide expectation for free wireless internet access.