But while we all think about when we want to upgrade our computers and our phones, we tend to let the network hardware that sits on our shelf or in our closets grow old, and because they continue to work, they must be performing properly. A Brief History of Wi-Fi To really understand if, or maybe better said, why you should consider upgrading your network hardware, you need to understand how wireless Internet access has evolved over the years. In the early days of remote computer access in our homes, dial-up service using telephone modems was the standard and were measured in baud rates.
The earliest modems were rated for baud which represents about 0. A megabit is equal to one million bits. In , the Federal Communication Commission released three bands of the radio spectrum now used for nearly all wireless communication: This new spectrum would eventually become the data highway for the The first versions of It had a maximum data transfer rate of 2 Mbps, which, when compared to the dial-up speeds was considerably faster but which paled in comparison to what was yet to come.
The lower cost was certainly an attractive advantage to both equipment manufacturers and the end consumer and Once the industry settled on a standard it needed to develop a market and to do that, needed computer industry support.
It found that support from Steve Jobs and Apple Computer. Apple proposed to one of the major supporters of It also introduced a network router device called an Airport Base Station, to transmit he wireless internet signal to the Airport card. With that, the Wi-Fi revolution was born. The next major update came in with the introduction of This new version combined the best of the It operated at a maximum transfer rate of 54 Mbps found in The next major enhancement to Wi-Fi came in September with the introduction of There is some debate about exactly how fast While some configurations claim transfer rates as high as Mbps, more common configurations produce data transfer rates closer to Mbps.
Regardless of which one is right, In addition, the new protocol also allowed data to be transmitted on both the standard 2. In addition to the increase in speed, Apple made several improvements to its Airport Extreme Base Station, which by now included the ability to connect a printer for network use, external hard drives for network data sharing and added a smaller Airport Express router which supported Air Tunes now known as AirPlay , as a way to stream music wirelessly across your network.
Apple also started to offer Airport Extreme units with built-in hard drives which supported data storage and sharing across the network and were sold under the name Time Capsule. This offered another big improvement in Wi-Fi service with the advancements in dual-band technology. Using multiple antenna built into the router, data can now be transmitted across both the 2. This allows for transmission rates up to Mbps with extended ranges and nearly uninterrupted transmission.
This also led to additional improvements like support for Time Machine back-ups over the network, and a new vertical design of the Airport Extreme and Time Capsule units. Over the years, Apple improved the Airport Card to correspond to the advances made in the In fact, by , Wi-Fi had become so common that Apple discontinued the optional Airport Card and now included Airport as a standard feature, not only in their portable machines, but in every Mac sold.
Airport Extreme Base Station — What to Buy For anyone buying their first Mac, whether a desktop or laptop, iPhone 6 and above or most current iPads, they all support the The current Airport Extreme Base Station is the hands down favorite.
In typical Apple fashion, the price of the Airport Extreme Base Station has remained fairly consistent over the years, despite the huge improvement in performance.
And while there are less expensive routers on the market, the ease of setting up an Airport Extreme Base Station makes the slightly higher cost well worth it. In addition, the current But what about everybody else? If you already have an older model Airport Extreme Base Station and you are upgrading your computer, do you really need to upgrade the Wi-Fi router?
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