I got a 4G MiFi recently and to put things in perspective, I’m writing about the history of wireless data. Part 1 covered wired modems, which enabled people to connect to each other over the existing telephone network. But people wanted to use their computers in more than just one place, especially with laptop usage growing.
My first experience with wireless modems was around 1998 with the Metricom Ricochet modem. It ran at 28.8k wireless and later went up to 128k. The cost was pretty reasonable too. But wireless was amazing. You could move around with your laptop and still access the Internet! At least you could in the Washington DC area, San Francisco, Seattle and several airports. Even better, you didn’t have to dial in since it was using an innovative packet switched network. Unfortunately the company crashed and burned in the Dot Com Bust.
Around that time I had my first kid, so my memory gets a little fuzzy. But I remember that Static Hotspots and Cyber Cafes sprang up. About this time broadband for the home via cable modems and DSL started rolling out. I say static hotspot since these were fixed to one location, usually a business that wanted to attract people to stick around and shop. So that was the next step for computer users: you could get out of the house, have coffee and use the Internet wirelessly. This was definitely a good step, but the services tended to be uneven in my experience and tied you to that one spot.
Next up: 3G, 4G and Mobile Hotspots