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Wireless Fidelity

How Wi-Fi works.
September 1, 2003

Just as cellular-phone technology untethered talkers from telephone cords, a new wireless standard is freeing computer users from network cables. Wireless Fidelity, a.k.a. Wi-Fi or 802.11b, uses radio transmissions to connect computer devices to a network-or to each other-at distances of up to about 100 meters. With Wi-Fi, you can surf the Web, grab work files from your company’s server, and check your e-mail-all without having to plug into a network jack.

The two basic components of a Wi-Fi network are a computer device outfitted with a low-power radio and another radio-equipped gadget known as an access point, which is wired to the Internet or a local network. The two communicate with each other over a free slice of the radio spectrum reserved for consumer use and inhabited by microwave ovens and cordless phones.

The freedom and mobility Wi-Fi offers appeal to a wide range of users. At home, Web surfers can download music on the backyard patio. Businesses and universities can use the technology to avoid the high costs of wiring up offices and dormitory rooms. Police and other emergency-services providers will soon be able to link Wi-Fi with GPS systems to track personnel. The technology is even popping up in public places. For instance, NYCwireless, a community organization, offers free wireless Internet access to all comers in a downtown park. And many retail outlets are seeing Wi-Fi as an inexpensive marketing gimmick. By offering wireless connections for little or no cost, businesses like Starbucks and Borders are demonstrating that liberating people from their digital tethers actually makes them linger longer.

Deep Dive

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Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

lucid dreaming concept
lucid dreaming concept

I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.

We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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